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Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease

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Tests for Liver Damage

for Veterans and the Public

Tests for liver damage - Liver Basics

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

Your provider can run more blood tests if needed 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.

Fibroscan is a non-invasive procedure. It may be requested by your provider to assess the amount of fibrosis or scarring in the liver. In some situations, a liver biopsy may be needed to identify the cause of liver damage. A liver biopsy is a medical procedure in which a doctor uses a special needle to remove a small piece of tissue in order to check for signs and identify a causes for the liver damage. A liver biopsy isn't necessary with many types of liver disease. If your doctor does recommend it, it will be helpful in learning more about your liver's health and guiding treatment.

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