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Five Things You Need to Know About… Liver Function Tests (Part 1)

Dr Jez Thompson Highlights Five Things You Need to Know About Liver Function Tests in Two New Videos

Watch Part 2 here


Deaths due to liver disease are rising rapidly; between 1970 and 2010, the UK standardised mortality rate for liver disease increased by over 400%.1 Primary care has a vital role to play in the prevention and early detection of liver disease, and liver blood tests are an important aspect of this.

In the first of two videos on liver function tests (LFTs), Dr Jez Thompson (GP, Leeds) answers the following questions:

  • what are the tests that constitute an LFT panel?
  • what other blood tests are useful when assessing liver function?


photo of
British Society of Gastroenterology Response to Abnormal Liver Blood Tests Algorithm2
This figure details the initial response to abnormal liver blood tests. Boxes in yellow indicate the initial evaluation of the clinical presentation. Patients with marked derangement of liver blood tests, synthetic failure and/or suspicious clinical symptoms/signs should be considered for urgent referral to secondary care (red box). For the remainder, a clinical history alongside evaluation of the pattern of liver blood test derangement will determine choice of pathway and is shown in the grey boxes. A grey box indicates all the tests that should be requested at that stage rather than a hierarchy within it. The presence of metabolic syndrome criteria should be sought to support a diagnosis of NAFLD. For children, the guideline should be consulted for modification of recommendation. Areas of diagnostic uncertainty are indicated in orange boxes and the decision for repeat testing or referral to secondary care will be influenced by the magnitude of enzyme elevation and clinical context. Green boxes indicate final/definitive outcomes for users of the pathway. Abnormal USS may include extrahepatic biliary obstruction due to malignancy, which should result in urgent referral.
BMI=body mass index; ARLD=alcohol-related liver disease; ALT=alanine aminotransferase; AST=aspartate aminotransferase; INR=international normalised ratio; ALP=alkaline phosphatase; GGT=gamma-glutamyltransferase; FBC=full blood count; HbA1c=glycated haemoglobin; LDH=lactate dehydrogenase; NAFLD=non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; USS=ultrasound scan
Newsome P, Cramb R, Davison S et al. Guidelines on the management of abnormal liver blood tests. Gut 2018; 67 (1): 6–19. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314924 Reproduced under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 licence.

Dr Jez Thompson

GP with special interest in working with the marginalised and socially excluded, substance misuse and liver disease