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Liver enzyme blood tests are often performed as part of a more comprehensive test called a liver function test 1. The reason for this is because liver enzyme results only tell part of the story related to liver health and condition. Liver enzyme results measure enzymes the organ produces in response to damage or disease. Other testing also involved in the liver function test measures actual liver activity.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
While the measurement of liver enzymes is frequently part of a laboratory blood test known as the liver function test, testing for liver enzymes may also be performed independent of other testing. In many instances, it is the results of the liver enzyme tests in combination with other blood tests, such as:
- that provide the most complete picture of liver health to the health care provider
- notes MayoClinic.com 1
Some of the enzymes produced by the liver in instances of damage or disease are also produced by other parts of the body, so elevated levels of these enzymes must be assessed by the health care provider as to their meaning in each individual case.
What Is a High GGT Level?
There are two basic types of liver enzymes subject to measurement: transaminases and cholestatic liver enzymes, Dr. Melissa Palmer, internal medicine specialist and hepatologist, explains at the LiverDisease website.
Liver damage or disease may be present even when liver enzyme levels are within normal limits or reference ranges. The Lab Tests Online website reports that liver function tests are not done on just one occasion to make a diagnosis of liver damage or disease 1. Many times, several liver function tests will be ordered over a period of time, which may be days or weeks 1. The health care provider will assess whether a pattern develops throughout the course of tests to better determine whether a liver disorder exists.
Early Stages of Liver Disease
Determining the meaning of liver enzyme results and other results of a liver function test is complex. The results of liver enzyme tests on any given day may be affected by the time of day the blood sample is taken, medications taken, foods eaten and time most recent alcohol was consumed -- if any -- explains Dr. Palmer. Men tend to have higher levels of the transaminase enzymes than women, and African-American men tend to have higher AST levels than Caucasian men.
Considering the variety and complexity of factors affecting liver enzyme levels and the medical assessment required to make a determination of the meaning of those levels, liver enzyme levels need the evaluation skills of a trained health care provider for an accurate diagnosis.
What Is a High GGT Level?
Early Stages of Liver Disease
What Is AST/SGOT in a CMP Test?
What Are the Treatments for an Enlarged Liver?
Does Lithium Carbonate Affect Liver Enzymes?
Elevated Liver Enzymes and Alcohol
Causes of Spots on the Liver
What Is a SGPT Blood Test?
Albumin Levels in Cirrhosis
What Does a High SGOT in a Liver Function Test Mean?
- MayoClinic.com: Liver Function Tests
- Cleveland Clinic. Cirrhosis of the Liver. Reviewed January 11, 2019.
- David S, Hamilton JP. Drug-induced Liver Injury. US Gastroenterol Hepatol Rev. 2010;6:73–80.
- American Liver Foundation. Medications.
- Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. Is Acetaminophen Safe to Take When You're Drinking? Published December 19, 2017.
- University of Michigan, Michigan Medicine. Methyldopa. Revised September 17, 2018.
- Elsevier Science Direct. Hypervitaminosis A. Published 2015.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury: Vitamin A. Updated December 3, 2013.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury: Niacin. Updated February 2, 2014.
- Amathieu R, Levesque E, Merle JC, et al. Insuffisances hépatiques aiguës sévères d'origine toxique : prise en charge étiologique et symptomatique [Severe toxic acute liver failure: etiology and treatment]. Ann Fr Anesth Reanim. 2013;32(6):416–421. doi:10.1016/j.annfar.2013.03.004
- Devarbhavi H. An Update on Drug-induced Liver Injury. J Clin Exp Hepatol. 2012;2(3):247–259. doi:10.1016/j.jceh.2012.05.002
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. Drug-Induced Hepatitis.
Lee Woodard is a freelance writer/editor with more than 15 years experience in the field of writing and a background in nursing spanning three decades. In addition to graduating from nursing school, Woodard attended Bowling Green State University with an emphasis in liberal studies. He has been published on various websites and successfully ghostwritten multiple books.