Asparate Aminotransferase (AST)-(SGOT)

An AST test is ordered along with several other tests to evaluate a patient who seems to have symptoms of a liver disorder. Some of these symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), dark urine, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, unusual weight gain, and abdominal pain. AST can also be ordered, either by itself or with other tests, for: 

  • persons who might have been exposed to hepatitis viruses,
  • those who drink too much alcohol,
  • persons who have a history of liver disease in their family, or
  • persons taking drugs that can occasionally damage the liver.

Persons who have mild symptoms, such as fatigue, may be tested for ALT to make sure they do not have chronic liver disease. ALT is often measured to monitor treatment of persons with liver disease, and may be ordered either by itself or along with other tests.

Very high levels of AST (more than 10 times the highest normal level) are usually due to acute hepatitis, often due to a virus infection. In acute hepatitis, AST levels usually stay high for about 1–2 months, but can take as long as 3–6 months to return to normal. In chronic hepatitis, AST levels are usually not as high, often less than 4 times the highest normal level. In chronic hepatitis, AST often varies between normal and slightly increased, so doctors typically will order the test frequently to determine the pattern.

In some diseases of the liver, especially when the bile ducts are blocked, or with cirrhosis and certain cancers of the liver, AST may be close to normal, but it increases more often than ALT. When liver damage is due to alcohol, AST often increases much more than ALT (this is a pattern seen with few other liver diseases). AST is also increased after heart attacks and with muscle injury, usually to a much greater degree than is ALT.

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