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6 tests to check your liver function

These tests can help you know how well your liver is doing

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Published : April 19, 2016 3:41 PM IST

Liver disease these days have become a common occurrence. Alcohol intake, smoking, unhealthy eating habits, etc. all that have become an integral part of our lifestyle is usually responsible for the damage happening to the liver. Moreover, the signs of liver failure are very subtle and so one ends up in the OT when it is usually too late. Your liver helps your body to maintain the internal balance of chemicals or nutrients by processing carbohydrates, protein and fats with the help of enzymes. When the liver is damaged, the liver cells release enzymes in the blood which are used to diagnose the condition. Here are some common markers and tests used to diagnose liver disease:

1. Serum Bilirubin: Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced when red blood cells or RBCs break down. Levels of bilirubin increase if your liver fails to function to its optimum. It can also increase if you suffer from some health conditions like gallstones. But in some cases of chronic liver illnesses like hepatitis, bilirubin levels are usually found in the normal range unless significant liver damage has occurred.


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  • Normal range is between 2 to 21 mol/L.
  • More than 17 mol/L of serum bilirubin level indicates liver disease.
  • In the case of jaundice, bilirubin levels as high as 4040 mol/L.

2. Albumin: Albumin is a protein synthesized in the liver. A healthy liver is capable of producing albumin in sufficient quantities. But when the liver function is hampered, less amount of albumin is produced.

Normal range of albumin: 35 to 50 grams per deciliter (g/dL)

3. Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): Alkaline phosphatase is a group of enzymes produced in various parts of the body including the intestine, kidneys and bones. The levels of ALP increase if the bile ducts don t function properly.

Normal range of ALP: 45 to 115 U/L.

4. Alanine transaminase (ALT): ALT is an enzyme made by the liver cells called hepatocytes. Blood levels of ALT increases when these hepatocytes are damaged due to hepatitis. The levels are also increased in the case of alcoholic liver disease, drug-induced and virus-induced liver disease.

Normal range of ALT: 5-60 U/L

5. Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): AST is another enzyme produced by cells of the liver. But this marker is slightly less specific as compared to ALT because AST is also produced by muscle cells in the body.


  • Normal range of AST is between 10 to 34 IU/L.
  • The levels of AST are higher than ALT in the case of an alcohol-induced liver disease. Increased AST levels may indicate cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis. But, high levels are also associated with interrupted blood flow to the liver (liver ischemia), liver tumor or drug-induced liver damage.
  • A ratio of ALT to AST is also used to differentiate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Normal AST: ALT ratio should be lesser than one. In case of alcoholic liver disease, the AST: ALT ratio is greater than 1

6. Liver biopsy: A liver biopsy may be suggested when a person s liver function markers (AST, ALT, APT, etc) deviate from the normal range for a long period of time. Sometimes, a liver biopsy is recommended to confirm liver disease following a scan, to identify the cause of jaundice or to determine the extent of damage to the liver. The test involves laboratory analysis of a tissue sample collected from the liver of the patient.

Note that none of the tests mentioned above are able to determine an overall measure of liver function, individually. Collectively, all the values help to determine the chances of suffering from liver disease and the severity of disease.

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