How to read liver test results

Written by michele harvey
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How to read liver test results
Liver function tests help to determine the cause of liver damage. (doctor image by sasha from Fotolia.com)

There are many forms of liver damage or disease and they affect liver function tests differently. Abnormal liver function tests show the possibility of liver inflammation and damage. Liver function tests are also used to determine the extent of the inflammation and damage. They are useful for monitoring you if you have a liver disease. According to the British Liver Trust, even if you are healthy, abnormal liver function test results commonly occur.

Skill level:
Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Look at your albumin level. Normal ranges for albumin are 38 to 55 grams of albumin per litre of blood or 3.8 to 5.5 grams of albumin per decilitre of blood. A healthy liver manufactures sufficient albumin. If you have chronic liver disease, your albumin level may be low.

    How to read liver test results
    Albumin is a protein in your blood. (blood drops image by Sergey Galushko from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Read your bilirubin (also known as total bilirubin) test result. Normal ranges for bilirubin are 0 to 20 umol/L or 0.174, which is the molecular weight of bilirubin measured in microns, per litre of blood, to 1.04 mg/dl, the molecular weight of bilirubin in milligrams,per decilitre of blood. If your bilirubin level is very high, you may have liver disease. Your eyes and skin may have a yellow colour known as jaundice.

    How to read liver test results
    Bilirubin is a pigment in bile, a substance made by your liver. (yellow eyes - Bernstein - gold image by fuxart from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Take note of your gamma glutamyl transferase or gamma GT. In normal liver function tests the level of GGT is not greater than 45. In the Liverdoctor.com newsletter, Dr. Sandra Cabot states that your doctor usually looks at your GGT results first. If your GGT is over 100, your doctor will look at your other liver function tests and try to determine possible reasons for liver disease.

  4. 4

    Look at your prothrombin time and partial thromboplastin time. Normal ranges are from 12 to 14 seconds and from 18 to 28 seconds respectively. Your PT shows how long it takes your blood to clot or coagulate. When your liver is damaged, your blood takes longer to thicken and you may also bruise more easily. Your PT and PTT may also indicate your response to medications used to prevent blood clots.

  5. 5

    Observe your alanine aminotransferase level. Ranges for ALT are generally from 0 to 45 units of alanine aminotransferase per litre of blood. Your ALT level shows the degree of liver inflammation. If you have hepatitis, your ALT may be 20 to 50 times higher than normal.

  6. 6

    Check your alkaline phosphatase.The normal range of ALP is usually from 30 to 120 U/L. High ALP levels may indicate a blockage that is preventing bile from being carried away from your liver.

  7. 7

    Notice your aspartate aminotransferase level. A high AST may point to liver damage elsewhere in your body and may be unrelated to liver disease. Your doctor may look at your AST and ALT together to see if the result of your AST is specifically related to your liver.

Tips and warnings

  • Have a medical profession evaluate the results of all abnormal liver function tests.
  • Expect your GGT to be elevated if you use alcohol excessively.
  • Look at the results of GGT and ALP together If both are high, this tends to confirm some type of liver damage.
  • Fast overnight and test for GGT first thing in the morning before breakfast for more accurate test results.
  • Expect a high bilirubin level in a newborn since the liver is not yet mature.

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