Has your doctor ordered liver function tests and you want to learn more about them – how they’re done and what they are supposed to detect?
If so, read on and you can get some useful information about the various types of tests that are performed to check out your liver and what you can expect if you have one or more of them done.
Why a Doctor Orders Liver Function Tests
The first thing you might be unsure of is why your doctor has ordered these tests. In a nutshell, if a doctor has ordered one or more tests on your liver, it’s because he or she wants to find out if everything is working as it should be and the liver is doing its job properly.
In most cases, your doctor probably has some reason to suspect that all might not be well with your liver, and hence has decided to order tests to check it out.
There are several types of liver function tests. Not all of the tests your doctor has ordered may actually check on the function of your liver, but instead check for things such as increased enzymes that signal liver damage.
Types of Tests
These are the most commonly ordered tests to see if your liver is working properly and if there is liver damage, how much:
- Blood Work – Your doctor may order blood to be drawn to check on such things as excess bilirubin, total protein, albumin, alkaline phosphatates, aspartate aminotransferase and alanine transferase. The levels in your blood of these enzymes and other things produced by the liver can tell your doctor what is going on.
- Liver Biopsy – A long needle will be inserted through your abdomen into your liver, where it will take a small piece of your liver for biopsy.
- Ultrasound – In this test, you will have an ultrasound test that uses imaging, reflected sound waves, to show a picture of your liver.
- CT Scan – You will have a radioactive material injected intravenously, and its image as it progresses through your liver will be shown on an Xray screen. If there is a blockage in a bile duct, for example, it will show up on the scan because the radiographic material will be seen not to flow through.
- MRI – This is a test done using Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Non-invasive and no Xrays, this test can detect many conditions of the liver.
What to Expect
For the blood work type of liver function tests, you can simply expect to have someone insert a needle into a vein and draw blood, usually from your arm.
The biopsy is somewhat painful and the area is normally deadened before the biopsy needle is inserted through your abdomen, You will ordinarily have an IV started in your arm in case you need meds during the procedure. You will also probably be given a sedative.
An ultrasound is painless, you just lie flat on an exam table and the technician moves the ultrasound wand over the area of your abdomen where your liver is located.
A CT scan of the liver is painless. You may or may not be given a light sedative, mainly to help you lie still while the imaging is taking place.
If you have an MRI, you can expect no pain, just a long and uncomfortable session inside the MRI machine and a lot of loud noise which is the way the test works. Some testing facilities nowadays have open MRI machines instead of the big tunnel types, which does make it easier.
What You Can Do
If you have been diagnosed or suspect that you have fatty liver or another liver problem, you can get proactive about helping to heal your liver with diet and lifestyle changes.
The Fatty Liver Diet Guide is excellent for people who want to halt or even reverse liver problems. It has been written by a nurse who has years of experience with patients experiencing fatty liver disease and can be tremendously helpful to you in getting your liver healthy again.
In addition, you may consider a liver cleanse that might work wonders by eliminating built up toxins that have accumulated in your liver. A lot of people get great results from a detoxifying liver cleanse.