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Cystic Fibrosis Liver Disease: Tests and Diagnosis

What tests are used to diagnose cystic fibrosis liver disease?

A blood test is used to measure the levels of the liver enzymes aspartate transaminase (AST), alanine transaminase (ALT) and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). Elevated liver enzymes are found in about half of patients with CFLD, but they are also found in many CF patients without CFLD.

An abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI are the main imaging tests used to make the diagnosis because they allow doctors to examine the liver for signs of scarring.

A liver biopsy can also be helpful in diagnosing CFLD. During a biopsy, a small sample of the liver is taken from a patient and examined under a microscope.

How do doctors at Children’s Hosptial Colorado make a diagnosis?

Our doctors diagnose CFLD using information from a physical exam, blood tests and imaging like an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. CFLD is usually suspected after a doctor finds an enlarged spleen or liver during an exam. The next step is usually blood tests to look for other potential causes of liver disease and an abdominal ultrasound to look for scarring in the liver. Further testing with CT or MRI scans or liver biopsy may add information.