Alanine aminotransferase is an enzyme found primarily in the liver, heart, kidneys, pancreas, and muscles in small quantities. The enzyme was once known as serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT).
In normal circumstances, alanine aminotransferase is not present in the blood stream and is, therefore, not detectable in tests. However, if the heart and the liver are not functioning optimally, this enzyme may leak into the blood. In most cases, it is liver damage that causes the release of this enzyme into the blood stream.
Alanine aminotransferase or ALT is usually tested along with some other enzymes like aspartate aminotransferase, lactate dehydrogenase, and other chemicals like bilirubin and alkaline phosphate. All these tests are conducted together in order to check the health of the liver.
The test for ALT is done typically to identify the presence of a liver condition and identify the kind of liver damage that has occurred, especially hepatitis or cirrhosis which are both caused by infections, drugs, or alcohol abuse. If a person has been experiencing jaundice, this test may help identify whether the jaundice has been caused due to a condition of the liver or a disorder of the blood. The test for alanine aminotransferase is also often done in order to monitor the drugs administered to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
The alanine aminotransferase test is performed on a sample of blood serum and therefore, the doctor may take a sample of your blood.
If you are taking any specific medication, you should discuss the use with your doctor as they may interfere with the test results. Herbal products may also interfere with the results and therefore, it is recommended that you stop consuming any herbal medicines or products at least two days before the test. If you are pregnant, make sure to bring it to your doctor’s notice.
The test is a quick one to perform and usually, the results are available within twelve hours. If the levels of ALT are very high, it is an indication of an advanced stage of liver damage. Reactions of drugs, exposure – both brief and prolonged – to carbon tetrachloride and lead poisoning are some of the other causes of high levels of ALT. If you have a large ectopic tumor in your body, the decay of it may also cause the levels of ALT to rise. A person who is in shock usually also has high level of ALT.