Other names: Serum Glutamic-Pyruvic Transaminase (SGPT); Alanine aminotransferase; AST/ALT ratio

Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is an enzyme, which is found primarily in the liver and kidneys. ALT is released into the bloodstream in the event that the liver is damaged; this usually occurs before any of the physical symptoms of liver problems, such as jaundice, become visible.

When is the test used?

The ALT test used to assess liver damage, but also used as a diagnostic test for liver disease; it is a useful test because the levels of ALT in the blood usually increases before the physical symptoms of liver disease become noticeable so an earlier diagnosis can be reached.

Doctors usually advise patients who are experiencing symptoms of liver conditions and disorders to have this test; symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, jaundice, abdominal pain or inflammation and changes to the colour of the urine (liver problems may make the urine darker than usual).

The test may also be recommended for those who are at risk of developing liver disease; these people include heavy drinkers, people with a family history of liver problems and people who have been exposed to hepatitis.

How is the test performed?

The ALT test is performed by collecting a blood sample from a vein in the arm (usually a vein on the inside of the elbow is used). The doctor or nurse will insert a needle into the vein and then draw blood, which will be collected in a syringe. The sample will then be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away for analysis at the laboratory.

What do the results mean?

Levels of ALT in the blood in healthy people are very low; if levels are raised this may signify that the individual has an infection or illness, which is affecting their liver. Very high levels are usually symptomatic of acute hepatitis, while levels that are higher than average may signify chronic hepatitis, liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.

Some forms of medication may cause levels of ALT to increase slightly.

Specific Blood Tests

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