What Causes Elevated Liver Levels of AST?

Written by m. gideon hoyle
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AST, or aspartate aminotransferase, is an enzyme found in the liver, as well as the heart and deep muscles. Heightened levels of AST may indicate liver disease or damage.


AST is also known as serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT). It enters the bloodstream when cells containing it are injured, according to KidsHealth.

Causes of Elevated AST

According to Lab Tests Online, causes of elevated AST levels in the liver can include acute hepatitis infection, alcohol-related tissue scarring (cirrhosis), bile-duct blockages, medication side effects and liver cancer.

AST Testing

AST levels are measured with a blood test. This test cannot distinguish AST produced by the liver from other AST sources in the body.


Since AST is also produced outside the liver, heightened levels do not necessarily indicate liver problems. To target these problems, doctors use an additional test that measures the enzyme alanine aminotransferase (ALT), which is produced almost completely by the liver. Levels of another enzyme called alkaline phosphatase (ALP) are also frequently measured.

Other Factors

AST levels can decrease as a result of pregnancy, according to Lab Tests Online. Heavy exercise can also temporarily raise AST readings.

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