Liver Blood Tests

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What are some common reasons for abnormal liver tests?

Abnormal liver tests may be detected in the blood in a variety of liver conditions.

  • Mild to moderate elevations of the liver enzymes are common. They are often unexpectedly encountered on routine blood screening tests in otherwise healthy individuals. The AST and ALT readings in such cases are usually between twice the upper limits of normal and several hundred units/liter. One of the most common causes of mild to moderate elevations of these liver tests is a condition referred to as fatty liver (steatohepatitis or hepatic steatosis). In the United States, the most frequent cause of fatty liver is alcohol abuse. Other causes of fatty liver include diabetes mellitus and obesity. Fatty liver tests are composed of several tests including blood tests, CT and/or MRI tests and in some individuals, a liver biopsy.
  • Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C are other causes of chronic mild to moderate liver enzyme elevation. In these conditions, ALT and AST may be only slightly high and the degree of abnormality in liver function tests can indicate the degree if injury.
  • Chronic and acute alcohol use also can commonly cause abnormal liver blood tests. In alcoholic hepatitis, the range of liver tests can vary greatly. In chronic alcohol liver disease or alcoholic cirrhosis, slight elevation of ALT and AST may be observed, whereas in acute alcoholic hepatitis, high liver enzyme numbers are often seen.
  • Many medications can be responsible for mild to moderate increase in the liver enzyme tests (see below). Continue Reading
Reviewed on 4/20/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Brailita, D. M. "Amebic Hepatic Abscesses Workup." Medscape. Udpated Apr 15, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/183920-workup>

Sears, D. MD. "Fatty Liver." Medscape. Updated Nov 30, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/175472-overview>

Sood, G. "Acute Liver failure workup." Medscape. Updated Feb 04, 2016.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/177354-workup>

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