Liver Function Tests: An Important Diagnostic Tool for Liver Diseases

The liver is locateLiver Function Testsd in the upper right side of the abdomen and is the largest solid internal organ of the human body. Holding over a tenth of the body’s blood supply, this conical organ performs over 500 vital functions. Some of the key functions of the liver include the production of bile, fat metabolism, filtration of waste and removal of toxic substances, production of blood plasma proteins, storing vitamins and minerals, regulation of blood clotting, and production of immune factors.

The optimal functioning of the liver is key to maintaining good health. Any issue with this vital organ can affect the functioning of the body. In case, you are facing any trouble, consider going for a diagnosis. To understand the liver function test price, continue reading the blog.

If you present with any symptoms of liver disease or if your doctor suspects that your liver functions are not optimal, they may recommend a test referred to as Liver Function Test (LFT). This group of tests, often done with a single blood draw, is used to measure bilirubin, liver enzymes, and proteins in the blood. This group of tests may also be referred to as Liver Panel or Liver Chemistries.

When is Liver Function Test recommended?

The Liver Function Test or Liver Panel is a key frontline diagnostic tool that helps determine the presence of liver disease. In addition, they help us understand if the liver is functioning optimally or if the liver is damaged.

  • LFT is most commonly administered to screen for viral infections affecting the liver, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • The test can also be used to screen for signs of Hepatic Steatosis and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), particularly among high-risk patients with diabetes, hypertension, or high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia).
  • It can be used to diagnose signs of liver damage in patients who consume alcohol frequently.
  • LFT is also very effective in helping diagnose gallbladder conditions such as cholecystitis.

Apart from being a significant diagnostic tool, LFT is also used to monitor chronic liver conditions, check for the efficacy of ongoing treatment, and check for side effects of medicines administered to treat unrelated conditions. Your doctor may recommend LFT to monitor –

  • The progression of chronic liver conditions such as liver fibrosis or cirrhosis
  • If the treatment protocol for existing liver disease is working well
  • The side effects of drugs that could cause liver damage. These include antiseizure medication, antibiotics, statins, NSAIDs, etc.

What tests are included in Liver Function Tests?

When a Liver Panel is administered, a single blood draw is used to test for several enzymes and proteins. These include –

  • Bilirubin– Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment that is produced when old blood cells break down in the body. It is eliminated by the liver, and liver diseases cause a build-up of bilirubin, causing the skin and sclera to go yellow.
  • Albumin– Albumin is a protein in the blood plasma that is tested as part of LFT. Low levels of albumin indicate liver or kidney dysfunction or inflammation.
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)– Alkaline phosphatase is a protein found in the blood. Abnormal levels point to liver, bone, or metabolic disorders.
  • ALT or alanine aminotransferase – ALT, or SGPT (serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase), is an enzyme made by the liver. Higher levels indicate liver disease.
  • AST or aspartate aminotransferase– AST or SGOT (serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase) is another liver enzyme that is released at high levels if the liver is damaged.
  • Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)– High levels of GGT enzyme also indicate liver disease or damage to the bile ducts.

Some labs include the following tests in the LFT panel –

  • Lactic deliver Function Testsrogenase test (LDH)– A protein that plays an important role in lactate conversion. High LDH levels can indicate organ damage.
  • Prothrombin Time Test (PT)– This measures the time blood takes to clot. Clotting time may also be recorded by an INR test.

Some labs do not include these in the LFT panel and may require to be done separately.  

LFT for Diagnosis of Liver Disease

LFT is one of the most commonly used screening and diagnostic tools. It is also a part of routine health check-ups. In most cases, liver panel tests are used to obtain information about the health and functioning of the liver. While these tests may not have value in diagnosing specific diseases, they are clear indicators of disease progression. For example, a doctor may discern which investigations are further warranted by looking at the LFT results. Depending on the LFT results, your doctor may further recommend tests such as –

  • USG
  • 5′-nucleotidase (5′-NT)
  • Alpha-fetoprotein test
  • Mitochondrial antibodies test

If you have a history of liver disease, have risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, or hypertriglyceridemia, or consume alcohol regularly, it is important to consult a doctor and routinely screen for liver disease. Chronic nausea and fatigue, yellowing of eyes or skin, and lack of appetite are symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

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