Understanding Liver Function Tests: SGOT, SGPT, and ALP

Our liver is a powerhouse of vital functions, from filtering blood to breaking down toxins. To keep tabs on this crucial organ's health, doctors often turn to a set of tests known as liver function tests, or LFTs. Within this battery of assessments, certain markers — SGOT (also known as AST), SGPT (also known as ALT), and ALP — stand out in providing insights that can help diagnose liver diseases, monitor treatment success, and even evaluate how other organs are functioning.  

Liver Function Tests Overview
Liver function tests are a group of blood tests commonly used to evaluate overall liver health or to diagnose certain liver diseases. These tests help detect the presence of liver inflammation, infections, or obstructions, and monitor the health of patients with liver conditions. The main liver function tests often measured include:
•    Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) or SGPT: This enzyme is found mainly in the liver and is most sensitive for detecting liver damage. Abnormal levels can indicate hepatitis, cirrhosis, or other liver-based diseases.
•    Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST) or SGOT: While present in the liver, this enzyme is also found in the heart and other organs. An SGOT test is often done alongside SGPT to pinpoint the side of liver inflammation and damage.
•    Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP): ALP is an enzyme found in all body tissues, but particularly in the bones and liver. Elevated levels may indicate liver disease or bone disorders.

Significance of SGOT (AST) Test
What is SGOT (AST)?

SGOT, or serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, is an enzyme found in high levels in the liver, heart, muscles, and in lesser amounts, other tissues. When damaged, these tissues release SGOT into the blood, resulting in an elevated blood level.

Understanding SGOT Results
The normal range of SGOT is from 5 to 40 units per litre of serum (the liquid part of your blood). High SGOT levels may suggest liver, heart, or muscle problems. However, it's important to note that this test is not very liver-specific, and additional tests are usually required to pinpoint liver damage specifically.

Significance of Elevated SGOT
Elevated SGOT levels may suggest various conditions:
•    Liver disease: Such as viral hepatitis or other forms of liver inflammation.
•    Heart conditions: When heart muscles are damaged, such as a heart attack.
•    Muscle damage: Damage to skeletal or smooth muscles.
Interpreting an SGOT test alone can be misleading due to its presence in other tissues. It is typically used in conjunction with other liver function tests and diagnostic tests to make a more conclusive diagnosis.

Significance of SGPT (ALT) Test
What is SGPT (ALT)?

SGPT, or serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase, is a liver enzyme that is released into the blood when liver cells are damaged. It is one of the most significant indicators of liver diseases and is more specific to the liver than SGOT.

Understanding SGPT Results
The normal range of SGPT is from 7 to 56 units per litre of serum. Elevated levels of SGPT can indicate liver damage but is most sensitive to liver cell damage from hepatitis, alcohol use, or fatty liver disease.

Interpreting SGPT Readings
Elevated SGPT readings can mean several liver-related conditions:
•    Hepatitis: Liver inflammation, viral hepatitis being the most common.
•    Cirrhosis: Chronic liver damage from several conditions, including alcoholism.
•    Liver tumors: Both benign and malignant can elevate SGPT levels.
Monitoring SGPT levels over time can also provide important information about the progression of liver diseases and the effectiveness of treatments.

Significance of ALP Test
What is ALP?

Alkaline Phosphatase is an enzyme that exists in all body tissues, with higher concentrations in the liver, bile ducts, and bones. Elevated serum levels can suggest bone or liver dices, among others.

Understanding ALP Results
Normal ALP levels are from 45 to 115 units per litre of serum in adults, slightly higher in children and pregnant women due to bone growth. Elevated levels are interpreted in conjunction with other tests to determine the source of the elevation.

When ALP is Elevated?
High levels of ALP can be observed in various conditions:
•    Liver disease: Such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or obstructive diseases.
•    Bone disorders: Conditions that affect bone growth and repair.
•    Gallstones or infections: ALP can be found in bile ducts, hence elevations can indicate blockages or infections.

Further testing, including the measurement of other liver enzymes and bilirubin, can help pinpoint the exact cause of an elevated ALP level.

Common Liver Conditions Detected
Liver function tests can detect a variety of liver conditions:

  • Liver Disease: Chronic liver diseases like hepatitis B and C, fatty liver disease, and autoimmune disorders can cause notable changes in liver function tests.
  • Hepatitis: In particular, the three types—A, B, and C—are often diagnosed and monitored using liver function tests, with particular emphasis on SGPT and SGOT levels.
  • Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is marked by irreversible scarring of the liver, which leads to changes in liver function, also detectable through these tests.
  • Alcohol-Related Liver Disease: Prolonged excessive drinking can lead to liver inflammation and elevated liver enzymes.

Monitoring these levels can therefore be vital in managing and treating chronic liver diseases.

Regular liver function tests are an instrumental part of managing overall health, especially for those at risk of liver-related conditions. While these tests can signal concerns about your liver health, they are just the start of the diagnostic process. If you receive abnormal results from any liver function test, it's important to follow up with a healthcare provider who can order additional tests and interpret the results in the context of your overall health. Remember, early detection and proper management of liver diseases can lead to better outcomes. Make liver health a priority, and your future self will thank you.