Digestive Health

By Dr Saravana.K

What are Liver Function Tests (LFTs) Used For? – Part 2


LFTs are used:

  • To help diagnose liver disorders if you have symptoms which may be due to liver disease – jaundice.
  • The pattern of the blood results may help to determine which disorder is causing the problem.
  • To monitor the activity and severity of liver disorders.
  • As a routine precaution after starting certain medicines, to check that they are not causing liver damage as a side-effect.
  • To screen for any potential liver disease, e.g., alcohol-dependent or in people who have been exposed to a hepatitis virus.

Other tests of the liver which may be done include:

  • Blood clotting tests. The liver makes many of the proteins needed to make blood clot. In certain liver disorders your liver cannot make enough of these proteins and so blood doesn’t clot so well. Therefore, blood clotting tests may be used as a marker of the severity of certain liver disorders.
  • Gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT, or ‘gamma GT’). This is another enzyme that occurs in liver cells. A high level of this enzyme is particularly associated with heavy alcohol drinking.
  • Immunology. Blood tests may be done to detect:
  • Viruses and antibodies to viruses can cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), e.g., hepatitis A, B and C.
  • Auto-antibodies. These are antibodies which attack a part of your own body and occur in autoimmune disorders. The most common autoimmune disorders of the liver are:
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis (associated with anti-mitochondrial antibodies).
  • Autoimmune hepatitis (associated with smooth muscle antibodies).
  • Primary Sclerosing cholangitis (associated with antinuclear cytoplasmic antibodies).
  • Other types of protein in the blood can point to specific liver diseases
  • Ceruloplasmin is reduced in Wilsons Disease
  • Lack of 1-antitrypsin is an uncommon cause of cirrhosis
  • high level of ferritin is a marker of haemochromatosis.

Other tests such as liver biopsy, ultrasound of the liver, Fibro scan and other types of scan, etc., may be needed to clarify the cause of a liver disorder and/or to monitor its progress.

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