Monday, November 16th, 2009

Liver function test

liver-mainDid you liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself? Located on the right side under the lower rib cage, the liver is actually the biggest gland in our body. It plays a variety of important roles in the body: It stores fuel gleaned from sugars, makes needed proteins, and helps remove poisons and toxins. The liver also makes bile, a substance that helps in digestion.

Liver function tests are a group of blood tests that doctors order when they want to find out whether the liver is functioning as it should, and whether there’s been any kind of damage to the liver. These tests can help a doctor diagnose viral infections (like mononucleosis or viral hepatitis) or any sort of liver damage from other health problems.

Demystifying facts

  • Serum Glutamic Pyruvate Transminase—SGPT is an enzyme present in liver cells. When a cell is damaged, it leaks this enzyme into the blood, where it is measured. SGPT is the most sensitive marker for liver cell damage. SGPT rises dramatically in acute liver damage, such as viral hepatitis or paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose. The SGPT level may or may not correlate with the degree of cell death or inflammation.
  • Serum Glutamic Oxaloacetic Transaminase—SGOT is an enzyme that reflects damage to the hepatic cell. It is less specific for liver disease. It may be elevated for other conditions such as a myocardial infarct (heart attack). Although SGOT is not as specific for liver as the SGPT, ratios between SGPT and SGOT are useful to physicians in assessing the etiology of liver enzyme
  • Bilirubin. This is a major breakdown product of hemoglobin. As the liver cells are damaged, the total bilirubin may rise. This is the element, which imparts yellow colour to eyes and urine in viral hepatitis patients.
  • Albumin is the major protein present within the blood. Albumin is synthesized by the liver. As such, it represents a major synthetic protein and is a marker for the ability of the liver to synthesize proteins. When the liver has been chronically damaged, the albumin may be low.
  • Globulins are a group of proteins made up of immunoglobulins produced in the liver cells. They are increased in chronic liver diseases like chronic hepatitis and Cirrhosis Alkaline Phosphates Also, it is elevated in non-liver conditions like bone disorders, Hodgkin’s disease, hyperthyroidism and inflammatory bowel disease. It may be slightly elevated in non-disease states like growing children and adolescents, normal pregnancies and at times in patients above the age of 60 years.

Detection of higher than normal values of SGOT and SGPT are the most common observations in the routine medical check-ups of apparently healthy individuals without any active disease. Here we look into other details like–overweight, obesity, alcohol consumption history, medicine intake, diabetes and abnormal cholesterol profiles as the reasons. If these causes are ruled out, we should investigate further for any chronic viral infections and auto-immune reasons.

Dr. Sanjay Verma, internal consultant, Moolchand Medcity.

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