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An alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test measures the level of ALT in your blood. ALT is an enzyme made by cells in your liver.
The liver is the body’s largest gland. It has several important functions, including:
Proteins called enzymes help the liver break down other proteins so your body can absorb them more easily. ALT is one of these enzymes. It plays a crucial role in metabolism, the process that turns food into energy.
ALT is normally found inside liver cells. However, when your liver is damaged or inflamed, ALT can be released into your bloodstream. This causes serum ALT levels to rise.
Measuring the level of ALT in a person’s blood can help doctors evaluate liver function or determine the underlying cause of a liver problem. The ALT test is often part of an initial screening for liver disease.
An ALT test is also known as a serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) test or an alanine transaminase test.
The ALT test is usually used to determine whether someone has liver injury or failure. Your doctor may order an ALT test if you’re having symptoms of liver disease, including:
Liver damage generally causes an increase in ALT levels. The ALT test can evaluate the levels of ALT in your bloodstream, but it can’t show how much liver damage there is or how much fibrosis, or scarring, is present. The test also can’t predict how severe the liver damage will become.
An ALT test is often done with other liver enzyme tests. Checking ALT levels along with levels of other liver enzymes can provide your doctor with more specific information about a liver problem.
An ALT test may also be performed to:
An ALT test doesn’t require any special preparation. However, you should tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Some drugs may affect the levels of ALT in your blood. Your doctor might tell you to avoid taking certain medications for a period of time before the test.
An ALT test involves taking a small sample of blood, as outlined here:
An ALT is a simple blood test with few risks. Bruising can sometimes occur in the area where the needle was inserted. The risk of bruising can be minimized by applying pressure to the injection site for several minutes after the needle is removed.
In very rare cases, the following complications can occur during or after an ALT test:
The normal value for ALT in blood is between 7 and 55 units per liter, but this value can vary depending on the hospital. This range can be affected by certain factors, including gender and age. It’s important to discuss your specific results with your doctor.
Higher-than-normal levels of ALT can indicate liver damage. Increased levels of ALT may be a result of:
Most lower-level ALT results indicate a healthy liver. However, studies have shown that lower-than-normal results have been related to increased long-term mortality. Discuss your numbers specifically with your doctor if you’re concerned about a low reading.
If your test results indicate liver damage or disease, you may need more testing to determine the underlying cause of the problem and the best way to treat it.
Written by: Karla Blockaon: Jul 07, 2017
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