The liver is a large reddish-brown internal organ located in the upper abdomen. It performs vital functions like filtering blood, making red blood cells, and helping the body digest food. Because of its importance in everyday health, it is important that doctors monitor its proper function.
The Purpose of Liver Function Tests
A doctor may order any number of liver function tests during a yearly physical to look for signs of illness and infection. More specifically, these tests are performed to:
- Detect infections like hepatitis C
- Monitor and determine levels of medications that can harm the liver
- Monitor the progress of known liver disease
- Measure cirrhosis scarring
- Determine the cause of symptoms like pain and bloating
- Establish pre-pregnancy or early pregnancy liver function
The types of liver function tests that a doctor orders will depend on factors like age, gender, weight, and overall health. Some of the more common tests available to doctors to monitor liver function today include:
- Serum bilirubin
- Serum albumin
- Prothrombin time test
- Mitochondrial antibodies test
These are but a few of the liver function tests available to doctors today. A physician may order liver function tests if a patient is shown to exhibit signs of liver failure or infection like:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Distended abdomen accompanied with pain or tenderness
- Dark urine or light stools
A doctor may also order liver function tests if the patient is pregnant or plans to get pregnant soon. It is important for the OB/GYN to know if a patient’s liver is functioning properly or if special monitoring and treatment for a liver condition during pregnancy is needed.
Liver function tests are not invasive and generally painless. They only require a simple blood draw. The laboratory will use the small blood sample to perform routine tests that can indicate the overall health and function of the liver.
The liver is an important internal organ that influences how well patients feel and function each day. Many patients do not know that they suffer from an infection or failure of the liver until serious symptoms begin to surface.