Alanine aminotransferase, serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase, SGPT
This test measures the amount of the enzyme alanine aminotransferase (ALT) in your blood.
ALT, formerly called SGPT, is mostly found in your liver cells. When liver cells are injured, they release this enzyme into your blood. High levels are a sign of liver damage.
This test is part of a group of tests commonly referred to as "liver function tests." Results of these tests give healthcare providers an overall picture of how well your liver is working.
You may have this test to see if you have liver damage or a liver disease, such as hepatitis. Symptoms of liver diseases include:
Extreme tiredness or weakness
Loss of appetite
Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
Dark yellow urine or light-colored stool
Belly (abdominal) pain
Nausea and vomiting
You may also have this test to look for cirrhosis, which causes damage and scarring to the liver. Causes of cirrhosis include long-term hepatitis infection, excessive alcohol use, obesity, and exposure to certain medicines or toxins. Symptoms of cirrhosis include:
Abdominal swelling from fluid buildup
Visible blood vessels in the skin
Swelling of the legs, feet, or ankles
Nausea, loss of appetite
Feeling tired (fatigue)
Your healthcare provider may also order other tests of liver health, including:
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
Prothrombin time (PT)
Your healthcare provider may also order other tests that measure:
Your liver's ability to process substances from your blood
Levels of substances your liver produces
Test results may vary depending on your age, gender, health history, and other things. Your test results may be different depending on the lab used. They may not mean you have a problem. Ask your healthcare provider what your test results mean for you.
ALT levels are normally less than 40 international units per liter (IU/L). Levels above 1,000 IU/L may be a sign of:
Acute viral hepatitis
Lack of blood flow to the liver
Injuries from illegal drugs or toxins
The ratio of AST to ALT may also provide helpful information to your healthcare provider. AST levels are normally lower than ALT levels. AST is often higher than ALT in cases such as:
Hepatitis from alcohol use
Cirrhosis in people with long-term viral hepatitis
A number of other medical conditions besides liver disease can also cause liver enzymes to rise. These include:
Adrenal gland problems
The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.
Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.
Many medicines can affect your test results, as can drinking alcohol. ALT levels may also be higher in people who are obese.
Your healthcare provider may ask you to not eat or drink and to not take certain medicines before your blood tests. Be sure your healthcare provider knows about all the medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use.