Liver function tests (LFTs), also known as liver panel or liver enzyme tests, are a group of blood tests that assess the health and function of the liver. These tests provide valuable information about the liver’s ability to perform its vital functions, such as metabolising drugs, producing proteins and detoxifying waste products.
Common liver function tests include:
- Alanine transaminase (ALT): ALT is an enzyme primarily found in liver cells. Increased levels of ALT in the blood may indicate liver damage or disease, such as hepatitis or liver cirrhosis.
- Aspartate transaminase (AST): Like ALT, AST is an enzyme found in liver cells, as well as in other organs such as the heart and muscles. Elevated AST levels can indicate liver damage, but it is less specific to the liver compared to ALT.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): ALP is an enzyme present in bile ducts, liver cells, and other tissues. Increased ALP levels may suggest liver or bile duct damage, as well as certain bone disorders.
- Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT): GGT is an enzyme found in the liver, bile ducts, and other organs. Elevated GGT levels are associated with liver and bile duct diseases, as well as alcohol abuse.
- Bilirubin: Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced when red blood cells break down. Elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood can indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis or obstructed bile flow.
- Albumin: Albumin is a protein synthesized by the liver. Decreased levels of albumin may indicate liver damage or impaired liver function.
These tests, along with other markers, are often performed together to provide a comprehensive assessment of liver health. Abnormal results may indicate liver disease, infection, drug toxicity, or other underlying conditions. It’s important to note that liver function tests are not diagnostic on their own and further evaluation may be needed to determine the specific cause of liver dysfunction. If you have concerns about your liver health, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional.