Other names: Aspartate Aminotransferase; Serum Glutamic-Oxaloacetic Transaminase (SGOT)

Aspartate aminotransferase (also known as AST) is an enzyme, which is released into the bloodstream when the muscle or liver cells are injured or damaged. AST is found in many cells in the body but is most concentrated in the liver and heart. Normally, when an individual is healthy, levels of AST in the bloodstream are low.

What is the test used for?

The AST test is usually used to diagnose liver disease or assess damage to the liver.

Doctors usually order this test when a patient has symptoms of liver conditions; common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Changes in the colour of the urine (usually liver problems make the urine darker in colour)
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching

The AST test may be used in conjunction with other liver tests or as part of a liver panel.

The test may also be used to monitor the condition of patients that are at high risk of developing liver problems; risk factors include:

  • Family history of liver disease
  • Heavy drinkers
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • People who have been exposed to hepatitis

How is the test performed?

The test is performed by collecting and analysing a sample of blood. The sample is usually taken from a vein on the inside of the elbow (these veins are usually the most prominent) and collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected it will be bottled, sealed, labelled and then sent away to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results show?

In healthy individuals, levels of AST in the blood are very low.

If levels are very high, this usually indicates acute hepatitis; with treatment, the levels should decrease but they will remain higher than usual for around 2 months.

If levels are slightly higher than normal, this may indicate chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and problems which are caused by a blockage in the bile ducts. Levels of AST may also be higher after a patient has had a heart attack or if a patient has a muscle injury.

Specific Blood Tests

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