Liver Function Panel

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Liver Function Panel
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Overview

A liver function panel is a blood test that helps doctors check for liver injury, infection, or disease. Liver function panels also can check for side effects in the liver from some medicines. This lab test panel measures the blood levels of total protein, albumin, bilirubin, and GGT enzymes. High or low levels may mean that liver damage or disease is present.

What Is a Hepatic (Liver) Function Panel?

A liver function panel is a blood test that helps doctors check for liver injury, infection, or disease. Liver function panels also can check for side effects in the liver from some medicines. This lab test panel measures the blood levels of total protein, albumin, bilirubin, and GGT enzymes. High or low levels may mean that liver damage or disease is present.

The liver serves several important functions in the body, including changing nutrients into energy for the body and breaking down toxic substances.

Your doctor may order a liver function panel if you have symptoms of liver disease. These symptoms include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, yellowing of your eyes or skin (jaundice), dark yellow urine, and feeling very tired. This blood test also may be done if you have recently been exposed to a hepatitis virus or are taking a medicine that may cause liver damage.

A variety of diseases and infections can cause acute or chronic damage to the liver, causing inflammation, scarring, bile duct obstructions, clotting abnormalities, and liver dysfunction. Alcohol, drugs, some herbal supplements, and toxins can also pose a threat. A significant amount of liver damage may be present before symptoms such as jaundice, dark urine, light-colored stools, pruritus, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and unexplained weight loss or gain emerge. Early detection is essential to minimize damage and preserve liver function.

LFTs (liver function tests) measure enzymes, proteins, and substances that are produced or excreted by the liver and are affected by liver injury. Some are released by damaged liver cells, and some reflect a decrease in the liver's ability to perform one or more of its functions. When performed together, these tests give the doctor a snapshot of the health of the liver, an indication of the potential severity of any liver injury, change in liver status over time, and a starting place for further diagnostic testing.

 

What tests are included in a liver function panel?

The panel usually consists of several tests that are performed at the same time on a blood sample. These may include:

  • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) – an enzyme mainly found in the liver; the best test for detecting hepatitis
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) – an enzyme related to the bile ducts; often increased when they are blocked
  • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) – an enzyme found in the liver and a few other places, particularly the heart and other muscles in the body
  • Total bilirubin – measures all the yellow bilirubin pigment in the blood. Another test, direct bilirubin, measures a form combined with another compound in the liver and is often requested with total bilirubin in infants with jaundice.
  • Albumin – measures the main protein made by the liver and tells whether or not the liver is to an adequate amount of this protein
  • Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) - an enzyme found mainly in the liver and is a useful marker for detecting bile duct problems
  • Total protein - measures albumin and all other proteins in blood, including antibodies made to help fight off infections

How Should We Prepare for a Liver Function Panel?

You may be asked to stop eating and drinking for 8 to 12 hours before the test. Tell your doctor about any medicines you re taking because some drugs might affect the test results.