[The patient with slightly increased liver function tests]

K P Maier
Praxis 2005 February 2, 94 (5): 139-43
The availability of serum blood chemistries for screening both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients has resulted in a marked increase in the number of abnormal liver chemistry tests that must be interpreted by physicians. Usually the first step in the evaluation of a patient with elevated liver enzymes is to repeat the test to confirm the result. If the result is still abnormal, it seems wise to differentiate between a predominant "necrotic pattern" of liver chemistry, as indicated by an elevation of ALT- or AST-activity or a predominant "cholestatic pattern", as indicated by elevated activities of g-GT and alkaline phosphatase. In patients with elevated serum amino transferases hepatic diseases should be excluded primarily with non-invasive serologic tests. The most common causes of elevated amino transferase levels are chronic hepatitis B and C, autoimmunhepatitis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, hemochromatosis, Wilson-disease and (only recently recognized) celiac sprue. In the case of a dominant "cholestatic pattern", primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, but also drugs and granulomatose hepatitis must be excluded. If non-invasive serologic studies remain inconclusive, ultrasound, mini-laparoscopy and liver biopsy will help to establish the final diagnoses.

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