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ALT

Definition

Alanine transaminase (ALT) is an enzyme found in the highest amounts in the liver. Injury to the liver results in release of the substance into the blood.

This article discusses the test to measure the amount of ALT in the blood.

Alternative Names

SGPT; Serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase; Alanine transaminase; Alanine aminotransferase

How the test is performed

A blood sample is needed. This may be taken from a vein. The procedure is called a venipuncture.

How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed

This test is used to determine if a patient has liver damage.

Normal Values

The normal range is 10 to 40 international units per liter (IU/L).

The normal range depends on many things, including your age and gender. Normal value ranges may also vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The example above is the common results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different samples.

What abnormal results mean

Increased levels of ALT often means that liver disease is present. Liver disease is even more likely when levels of other liver blood tests are also increased.

An increase in ALT levels may be due to:

  • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
  • Death of liver tissue (liver necrosis)
  • Hepatitis
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Lack of blood flow to the liver (liver ischemia)
  • Liver tumor or cancer
  • Medications that are toxic to the liver
  • Mononucleosis ("mono")
  • Pancreatitis (swollen and inflamed pancreas)

What the risks are

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:

  • Bleeding from where the needle was inserted
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood collecting under the skin)
  • Infection (rare)

References

Berk P, Korenblat K. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver tests. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 149.

Pratt DS. Liver chemistry and function tests. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 73.


Review Date: 2/13/2013
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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