How is liver disease diagnosed?

Liver disease can be diagnosed through blood tests and imaging. Blood tests look at levels of certain markers of liver function, such total bilirubin. If these are abnormal it may signify a problem with the liver. Depending on coinciding symptoms a doctor may wait and repeat the tests at a later date, or proceed with more specialized blood tests and imaging of the liver with ultrasound, computed axial tomography (CAT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Liver function tests, which include measuring levels of various enzymes and proteins, are part of the standard panel of blood tests often ordered when you see your doctor that may raise a suspicion of liver disease. If any of these are abnormal, an ultrasound can help identify liver disease and a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast can provide more details about the condition of the liver.

If liver cancer is suspected, a blood test that detects a substance called alpha-fetoprotein can be conducted; this protein is produced by some, but not all, liver cancers. If liver cancer is detected, drugs can slow its spread, and there are several surgical options.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.