Abnormal liver function tests (LFTs)

Liver function tests (LFTs) are blood tests frequently performed to detect early signs of liver injury or inflammation and to directly measure liver function.

They may be performed in patients at risk of liver disease or sometimes as a part of a general screen in patients who are non-specifically unwell. Transient derangements of LFTs are quite common and can sometimes occur with general minor viral infections or as part of a reaction to a new medication.

A patient with an LFT abnormality should be further investigated to exclude significant liver disease. Sometimes the derangement is transient and resolves itself without an obvious cause being found. Persistence of an LFT abnormality however, even if only minor, may be the first indication of an important or chronic liver disorder. Symptoms of liver disease only occur at very advanced stages of damage, so all persistent abnormalities of LFTs should be fully investigated, even if a patient is feeling well.

Common causes of chronically deranged LFTs include fatty liver, excess alcohol consumption and undiagnosed viral hepatitis infection. Other causes include autoimmune diseases of the liver or bile ducts, such as autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) or primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Disorders of iron overload (Haemochromatosis) and copper overload (Wilsons disease) are also important to consider.

Your liver specialist at the London Clinic can perform a full range of diagnostic laboratory and scanning tests to ascertain the cause and extent of liver injury. This set of investigations may include a Fibroscan, a state-of-the-art non-invasive scanning test to assess the presence of liver fat and scarring.