COVID-19: Get the latest updates, safety precautions, or learn how to schedule a video or in-person visit.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) Test

Test Overview

An alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test measures the amount of this enzyme in the blood. ALT is found mainly in the liver, but also in smaller amounts in the kidneys, heart, muscles, and pancreas. ALT was formerly called serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT).

ALT is measured to see if the liver is damaged or diseased. Low levels of ALT are normally found in the blood. But when the liver is damaged or diseased, it releases ALT into the bloodstream, which makes ALT levels go up. Most increases in ALT levels are caused by liver damage.

The ALT test is often done along with other tests that check for liver damage, including aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and bilirubin. Both ALT and AST levels are reliable tests for liver damage.

Why It Is Done

The ALT test is done to:

  • Identify liver disease, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, caused by alcohol, drugs, or viruses.
  • Help check for liver damage.
  • Find out whether jaundice was caused by a blood disorder or liver disease.
  • Keep track of the effects of medicines that can damage the liver.

How To Prepare

Avoid strenuous exercise just before having an ALT test.

How It Is Done

A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.

How long the test takes

The test will take a few minutes.

Watch

How It Feels

When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.

Results

An alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test measures the amount of this enzyme in the blood. Results are usually available within 12 hours.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Alanine aminotransferase

Males:footnote 1

10–40 units per liter (U/L) or 0.17–0.68 microkatals per liter (mckat/L)

Females:footnote 1

7–35 U/L or 0.12–0.60 mckat/L

High values

High levels of ALT may be caused by:

  • Liver damage from conditions such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.
  • Lead poisoning.
  • Very strenuous exercise or severe injury to a muscle.
  • Exposure to carbon tetrachloride.
  • Decay of a large tumor (necrosis).
  • Many medicines, such as statins, antibiotics, chemotherapy, aspirin, opioids, and barbiturates.
  • Mononucleosis.
  • Growth spurts, especially in young children. Rapid growth can cause mildly elevated levels of ALT.

References

Citations

  1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Jerome B. Simon MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology

 

PeaceHealth endeavors to provide comprehensive health care information, however some topics in this database describe services and procedures not offered by our providers or within our facilities.