A liver function test is a blood-related test conducted to determine the status of the liver’s health. It is also popularly called liver chemistries, the LFT test is useful in the diagnosis of any liver-related disease or damage. The tests measure whether the liver is functioning normally by producing proteins and cleaning up bilirubin, a red blood cell waste product. With this, the tests also reveal if the liver cells are generating enough enzymes to repair the damaged cells.
When is it done?
It’s a common saying that it’s better to be safe than sorry; therefore, you shouldn’t wait for the liver damage to become worse to get it treated. But how does one know when an LFT test should be taken and that there are chances that the liver is not functioning properly?
To answer that, there are some situations when the test should be done:
- To screen for any damage caused by Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C which are serious liver infections.
- If you’re in the course of any medicine intake that is popular for affecting the liver adversely, then an LFT test is recommended.
- In case you’re already a liver patient, then the test should be done to keep a check on the ailment and keep a follow-up on the treatment.
- A test should be conducted in case you are experiencing any specific symptoms that are signs of the liver disorders like jaundice, diarrhea, abnormal bleeding, etc.
- The person who has regular alcohol consumption should check if there is any development of any severe disease, especially cirrhosis.
- If you’re experiencing gallbladder disorder symptoms.
- If there is a case of an accident that involves severe injury to the liver.
Preparation for the liver function test
Your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions related to the preparation for the blood sample being taken for the LFT test.
There are certain medicinal drugs and food items that can affect the enzymes and protein levels present in the blood. Hence, to get fair and unhindered results, your doctor may ask you to avoid the consumption of such medicines, or you may be asked to come for the blood sample test with an empty stomach.
Hence, it is recommended to strictly follow the advice of your doctor to get true results. Also, ensure that before the test, you stay hydrated by continuously drinking water at regular intervals.
Make sure that you wear either a loose t-shirt or a shirt with sleeves that can be easily rolled up, so that blood samples can be collected without any difficulty.
Common liver functioning test
A liver function test (LFT Test) detects some particular kinds of protein as well as enzymes that are released in the body. If the result doesn’t conform to the standards of a normal liver, then it is an indication that your liver is suffering from serious damage. Some of the common tests which are conducted for assessing damage to the liver are:
- Alanine transaminase (ALT) test
Alanine transaminase (ALT) is a kind of enzyme that converts proteins into energy for the liver. It is released by the human body if the liver is exposed to any kind of damage or is not functioning properly. They are released into the bloodstream which makes its level increase in the body. Hence, the ALT test results showing an increased level than normal is an indicator of a worse liver condition.
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) test
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) is a type of enzyme that is mostly found in many integral organs of the human body such as the liver, heart, and other muscles. AST levels in their individuality don’t point towards any specific liver damage possibility, hence they are coupled with the ALT test so that all the issues experienced in the liver can be effectively screened. Like ALT, AST levels shoot up in the bloodstream as they’re released when there is liver damage. Hence, these AST levels indicate any probable damage to the liver and other essential organs.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test
The Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) enzyme is most commonly traced in your liver, bones, and bile ducts. ALP test is usually conducted along with multiple other tests. Higher than normal levels of ALP are signs of probable bone disease or bile ducts blockage or inflammation.
Albumin is a protein that is produced by the liver that is important for some main body functions. Functions like stoppage of essential fluids from leaking that are present in the veins, hormones transportation, vitamins, and nourishment of tissue are done by this protein.
With the liver functioning test, the production of albumin is also tested. If in any case, it is found out that the production level of albumin is less, it means that the liver is not working perfectly.
The waste materials that are generated from the RBC breakdown are known as Bilirubin. It is generally processed in the liver and then is thrown out of the body in the form of stool. An unhealthy liver will not be able to process this waste. Any abnormal level of Bilirubin means that the liver is not functioning properly.
Procedural conduct of the test
The functioning of the liver is determined through a blood sample. For the liver function test, you may need to give your blood sample in a specialized testing lab, or at the hospital. The procedure will remain the same as done for a normal blood test.
- The faculty or the concerned healthcare service provider will help you to clear the skin with a liquid. This will make sure that all the microorganisms are cleaned from the skin.
- After cleansing, your arm will be wrapped with an elastic strap. This will make the veins more visible for the healthcare provider.
- A new needle will be used to draw blood so that the test can be conducted successfully.
- Once the blood sample is done, the affected spot will be covered with help of medical bandages.
- Then, the drawn blood sample is sent to a testing laboratory for determining the functioning of your liver.
The liver plays an integral part in the proper functioning of our body, hence undergoing a liver function test is a must to detect the disease at its early stage and cure it before the damage goes beyond repair.
Therefore, if you’re witnessing any symptoms that are signs of any damage, make an appointment with your doctor today and take the test.
Ridhima Sharma is a Senior Pharmacist at Kukreja Hospital, New Delhi. Ridhima completed her Diploma in Pharmacy (D. Pharm) from UP University. She regularly writes article on health information, fitness and beauty related products at IndiasStuffs.com