Clinical approach to the patient with abnormal liver test results

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Abnormal results of standard biochemical liver tests occur frequently; however, the prevalence of clinically significant liver disease is only about 1 % in all patients screened. Thus, development of a rational and costeffective approach to these patients is important. Liver diseases are generally classified as hepatocellular, cholestatic, and infiltrative. Cholestatic liver disease is further categorized as intrahepatic and extrahepatic. Hepatocellular disease is characterized by transaminase increases greater than 5 times the upper limit of normal, with alkaline phosphatase levels usually increased less than 2 to 3 times the upper limit of normal. Cholestatic disease is characterized by an increase in the alkaline phosphatase level that is 3 to 5 times greater than the upper limit of normal, with only a mild increase of transaminases. The exception to this is cholestasis with cholangitis when the trans-aminases can be more substantially increased. In infiltrative diseases of the liver such as lymphoma or granulomatous hepatitis, the alkaline phosphatase level is increased disproportionately to that of the bilirubin. Specific etiologic diagnoses cannot usually be based on routine biochemical liver test results, and thus more specialized serum tests are necessary. A liver biopsy is often needed for a precise diagnosis in patients with long-term increases in liver test results. Ultrasonography is the best initial imaging technique for the liver, and if biliary dilatation is noted, endoscopie retrograde cholangiopancreatography is recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1095
Number of pages7
JournalMayo Clinic proceedings
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical approach to the patient with abnormal liver test results'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this