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What is an elevated liver function test?

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Quick Answer

Liver function tests are blood tests that monitor damage in the liver by measuring how well the liver clears blood waste and produces protein, reports Mayo Clinic. Elevated or low results could help physicians diagnose liver disease or other medical conditions, says WebMD.

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Full Answer

One type of liver function test measures prothrombin time and the international moralized ratio. This test checks the ability of the liver to produce the proteins that are vital for normal blood clotting, WebMD explains. PT is the measure of the time it takes for a blood sample to clot under lab-specific conditions, while the INR is a standardized method for labs to report PT for accurate comparison. An elevated test result may indicate severe liver disease or another medical condition.

Another liver function test measures albumin, an essential protein in the blood. Low albumin levels could indicate severe chronic liver disease and other medical conditions, advises WebMD. However, low levels are frequently temporary, so this test doesn't offer a reliable diagnosis for disease.

The third liver function test measures bilirubin, a waste product that results when red blood cells break down. Bilirubin is processed through the bile ducts and dissolves in bile so that it's excreted in stools, explains WebMD. High bilirubin blood levels indicate impaired bile flow, which may occur in gallbladder disease, liver disease or other conditions. Very high levels can cause jaundice.

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