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There are a number of blood tests that may be used to diagnose hepatitis. A liver function test (LFT) is a group of tests that include those for a number of enzymes produced by the liver. Persistent elevation of the liver enzymes ALT and GGT can indicate damage to liver cells, decreasing the ability of the liver to perform its many functions. There are tests for antibodies against each type of virus that causes hepatitis. Elevated bilirubin levels appear most obviously as yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, indicating breakdown of liver cells and an inability to process bile.

A liver biopsy, in which a needle is inserted into the liver to withdraw a small amount of liver tissue that is then examined under a microscope by a pathologist, is the definitive way to assess the type and extent of liver damage. This is an invasive procedure requiring skill on the part of the physician performing the biopsy. Liver biopsy is used when a diagnosis or measurement of liver damage cannot be made by other means. A non-invasive test called the Fibroscan that uses a form of ultrasound to measure liver stiffness and hence the degree of fibrosis is often used and there are also several blood tests with combinations of markers that can be used to estimate the amount of liver fibrosis. Imaging such as ultrasound, CT or MRI also have a role in defining the extent of liver damage and are also used for ongoing monitoring during and after treatment for chronic hepatitis.

For people with chronic hepatitis regular check-ups (see fact sheet) are essential.

This video from Hepatitis Australia - Liver Check-Up explains what occurs at one clinic in Sydney. Clinics elsewhere may use different testing techniques and new drugs becoming available may also change the way people with chronic hepatitis are followed up.


Last Review Date: December 4, 2020