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What LFT Levels Mean and Why Doctors Test Them

written by: angiem1981•edited by: Diana Cooper•updated: 11/16/2010

The liver panel test, called the LFT blood test, has multiple purposes. Whether screening for disease or inflammation or checking levels during a routine physical, the results can reveal important information about your body.

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    Why It's Needed

    There are a variety of reasons that a liver test such as this is necessary. Those on certain medication may have the LFT on a routine basis so that the physician can monitor the effectiveness of a medication, adjust dosage or determine if the patient is a good candidate for that particular therapy. In addition to this, the liver panel test is also used to screen for disorders of the liver. This can include conditions such as jaundice, liver diseases and bile duct obstruction for example. The physician may also order the LFT blood test for the patient that is known to have a liver problem to evaluate the extent of the health condition. However, these are only a few of the reasons why your physician may have ordered this type of test as it has multiple uses.

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    How is the LFT Performed?

    The LFT is a simple blood test that is routinely performed in numerous different medical centers. This can include hospitals, labs, physicians’ offices and some clinics. The test is performed by drawing blood via a needle, typically from the arm. In most cases, there are no special precautions necessary when taking this particular test, such as fasting. However, if your physician has ordered additional tests with the LFT, fasting and other precautions may need to be taken. Therefore, you should always consult with the physician at least twenty four hours prior to testing to reduce the likelihood of error.

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    Interpreting the Results

    Liver functioning tests such as the LFT blood test are not specifically for diagnosing one particular disease or disorder over another. The test itself checks for multiple abnormalities in liver functioning by assessing the levels of substances commonly found or created in the liver, such as protein and enzymes. A low or high value of any of these substances could mean a variety of things from an acute trauma or a more serious condition, hence why the test is commonly performed with other laboratory tests. The patient should also remember that alcohol and the use of some drugs, legal and illegal can play a significant role in the test values.

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    Related Tests

    Your physician may order a multitude of tests with the LFT test. However, many can often be performed from the same sample of blood. These tests may include the total protein test, bilirubin, ALT and the AST, just to name a few. The types of tests ordered will ultimately reflect what the physician is looking for and can vary significantly on an individual basis. Without these additional tests, it can be almost impossible to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem.

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    Liver Blood Tests. EMedicine. 1994-2010. Viewed 15, November 2010.

    Liver Panel. Lab Tests Online. Modified 22, October 2010. Viewed 15, November 2010.