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Equine Health Resource

Liver Enzymes

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Enzymes are special molecules (mostly proteins) within cells that facilitate or speed up certain biologic processes. There are particular enzymes within liver cells that are unique to these cells.

Damage to liver cells by any disease process breaks the cells, and spills these recognizable enzymes into the bloodstream, where they are measured. Normal levels of these enzymes in the blood is very low.

Bile is produced in the liver and carried through bile ducts to the small intestine. It plays an important role in digestion, especially of fat.

Liver enzyme levels are measured by specific laboratory tests. They can indicate liver damage or obstruction of bile formation and movement to the intestine.

Benefits

A simple, commonly used and quick way of assessing liver damage or bile blockage (cholestasis).

Limitations

Certain liver enzymes are also found in other cells, muscle for instance. Elevations in these enzymes thus do not differentiate liver injury from muscle injury.

Elevations of some liver enzymes means there has been destruction of liver cells, but provides no information about the underlying cause of the destruction.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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