What is alanine aminotransferase test?
Alanine aminotransferase test is that which analyzes the level of alanine aminotransferase in the blood. The alanine aminotransferase is an enzyme made by the liver cells. The liver cells are known as hepatocytes.
The liver is known to be the largest organ in the body. It has many vital functions including:
- Synthesis of proteins
- Storage of irons and vitamins
- Flushing of toxins away from the body
- Production of bile, which facilitates digestion
Enzymes assist the liver to metabolize other proteins so that body can absorb them easily. One of these enzymes is alanine aminotransferase. It plays a vital role in metabolism. Metabolism is the process by which energy is extracted from food substances.
Alanine transferase is present in the liver hepatocytes. However, in the event that the liver is inflamed or damaged, then the alanine aminotransferase will be released into the general circulation. This elevates the level of ALT in the blood.
By measuring the levels of alanine aminotransferase in a person’s blood, physicians can evaluate the liver physiology or determine the actual cause of a liver problem. The alanine aminotransferase test is actually a part of an initial screening for liver disease. The alanine aminotransferase test is also referred to as a serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) test. It may also be known as an alanine transaminase test.
Why is alanine aminotransferase test carried out?
The alanine aminotransferase test is done to determine whether or not a person has a failure of the liver or an injury to the liver. Your physician may ask you to do an ALT test if you have been exhibiting symptoms of liver disorders, such as:
- Dark urine
- Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Pain in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen
Damage to the liver usually results in an elevation of alanine aminotransferase. The alanine aminotransferase test can determine the level of ALT in the general circulation, but it cannot show the extent of liver damage, the amount of fibrosis, or scarring. It cannot also give a clue as to how severe the damage to the liver will be in the future.
The alanine aminotransferase test is done alongside other liver enzyme tests. Analyzing the level of alanine aminotransferase alongside other enzymes of the liver can give your physician the necessary information about a liver disorder.
You may also use an alanine aminotransferase test to:
- Check the progression of liver disorders such as liver failure or hepatitis.
- Determine whether or not treatment should commence for a liver disease
- Evaluate the efficacy of a particular treatment
How do I prepare for an alanine aminotransferase test?
No special preparation is necessary for an alanine aminotransferase test. However, if you are currently on medications of any kind, do well to give your physician a first-hand-information about it. Several medications may have an adverse effect on the levels of alanine aminotransferase in your blood. You may be advised by your physician to quit taking some medications for a specific period of time before the test.
What is the procedure for an alanine aminotransferase test?
The following procedures are involved:
- The area where the blood is to be drawn will be cleaned with an antiseptic. There, a needle will be inserted.
- A tourniquet will be tied around the upper arm; this stops the flow of blood and enhances the visibility of your vein.
- Once the vein is discovered, the needle will be inserted into the vein and the blood will be drawn. You may feel some piercing or pinching sensation but it does not last for long. The blood drawn is
theplaced into a tube linked to the end of the needle. At times, the physician may require more than one tube.
- After a sufficient quantity of blood has been drawn, the healthcare provider will then remove the needle and the elastic band. A piece of cloth will then be placed over the site of the
- The blood sample drawn is then analyzed in a laboratory. The test results will be forwarded to your physician by the lab after which your physician will schedule an appointment with you so that he can explain the result to you.
Are there any risks associated with alanine aminotransferase test?
The alanine aminotransferase test is a simple blood test. Very little to no risks are involved. Sometimes, the patient may experience a little bruise in the region where the needle was pierced. This risk can be prevented by applying some pressure to the site of injection for some minutes after the removal of the needle.
In some cases, some complications may be experienced after the alanine aminotransferase test. Such complications include:
- Bleeding at the site of puncture
- Pooling of blood beneath the skin. This condition is called a hematoma.
- Fainting or light-headedness, especially at the sight of blood.
What does the alanine aminotransferase test result mean?
An ALT test result is considered normal when it falls within the range of 29 to 33 units per liter for the males and 19 to 25 units per liter for the females. However, there is a variation in these values depending on the hospital. The range may be affected by some factors such as age and gender. The patient should ensure that he discusses the result with the physician.
If the results of an alanine aminotransferase test are higher than normal, then it may be a clear indication of liver damage. It may be due to:
- Cirrhosis, which is a scarring of the liver.
- Hepatitis – a liver inflammation
- Cancer or tumor in the liver
- Poor or insufficient blood flow to the liver
- Hematochromatosis, a disorder resulting in accumulation of iron in the body
In many cases, a low level of alanine aminotransferase test indicates a healthy liver. However, research has shown that test results lower than normal are linked to long-term mortality. The patient should endeavor to discuss his or her numbers with the physician. If the test results indicate a disorder of the liver, then you may require further testing to find out the exact cause of the disorder and the best course of treatment.