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Tests for Liver Damage

for Veterans and the Public

Tests for liver damage

Most people with chronic liver disease will have no ongoing symptoms, and the damage will be detected only by blood tests. The tests (called a "liver panel") measure:

  • your level of liver enzymes (see next section)
  • your level of bilirubin (pronounced "billy-roo-bin"), which rises when the liver is not working well
  • a protein called albumin (pronounced "al-byoo-min"), whose levels go down when the liver is damaged

Doctors can run more blood tests if they need to in order to find out what is causing the damage to your liver.

Ultrasound, CAT scans, and MRI are the 3 main methods of taking pictures of the liver. They can often show if the liver injury has become serious. A liver biopsy, in which a needle is used to take a sample of the liver itself, can tell even more about the liver's health.

Some people with liver problems can have a swollen liver. Others may have severe scarring or a shrunken liver. During an examination, a doctor can feel the liver to find out if it is shrunken, hard, or swollen.

For details on laboratory tests, go to Understanding Lab Tests