What do the numbers in a liver function test mean?


Quick Answer

The numbers in a liver function test refer to blood levels of total protein, albumin, bilirubin and liver enzymes, according to WebMD. High or low levels can indicate the presence of liver damage or disease.

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Full Answer

A total serum protein test measures separate values for the amount of total protein in the blood and the amount of albumin, a protein made primarily in the liver that is essential to tissue growth and healing, reports WebMD. Albumin keeps blood from leaking through blood vessels and helps it transport substances throughout the body.

Bilirubin is a waste product resulting from the breakdown of red blood cells, according to Mayo Clinic. An elevated bilirubin level sometimes points to an increase in the destruction of red blood cells and usually indicates problems in liver functioning.

Blood test results showing elevated liver enzymes usually indicate liver cell damage and inflammation, reports Mayo Clinic. The enzymes these numbers typically refer to are alanine transaminase and aspartate transaminase. Injury to liver cells causes higher than normal amounts of ALT and AST to be leaked into the bloodstream. In most tests showing high liver enzyme numbers, the levels are only elevated temporarily and are not a sign of chronic, serious liver problems.

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