The hepatic function panel, also known as liver function tests, is a group of seven tests used to evaluate the liver for injury, infection, or inflammation.
The liver plays important roles: It stores energy from food, makes proteins, and helps remove toxins. The liver also makes bile, a fluid that helps in digestion.
Liver function tests help doctors find out whether the liver has been damaged. If your child is experiencing symptoms of liver disease — including jaundice (yellowish skin or eyes), dark urine, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal swelling — these tests may be ordered. They also may be done to help diagnose viral infections (such as hepatitis or mononucleosis) or to monitor medications that can cause liver-related side effects.
The hepatic function panel evaluates:
Although the hepatic function panel can be done without any preparation, it's more accurate when performed after fasting. Your child may be asked to stop eating and drinking for 10 to 12 hours before this blood test. You should also tell your doctor about any medications your child is taking because certain drugs might alter the test results.
On the day of the test, having your child wear a short-sleeve shirt can make things easier for the technician who will be drawing the blood.
A health professional will usually draw the blood from a vein. For an infant, the blood may be obtained by puncturing the heel with a small needle (lancet). If the blood is being drawn from a vein, the skin surface is cleaned with antiseptic, and an elastic band (tourniquet) is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and cause the veins to swell with blood. A needle is inserted into a vein (usually in the arm inside of the elbow or on the back of the hand) and blood is withdrawn and collected in a vial or syringe.
After the procedure, the elastic band is removed. Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed and the area is covered with cotton or a bandage to stop the bleeding. Collecting blood for this test will only take a few minutes.
Either method (heel or vein withdrawal) of collecting a sample of blood is only temporarily uncomfortable and can feel like a quick pinprick. Afterward, there may be some mild bruising, which should go away in a day or so.
The blood sample will be processed by a machine. Parts of a hepatic function panel may be available in minutes in an emergency, but more commonly the full test results come after a few hours or the next day.
If any of the results seem to point to liver damage or disease, further testing may be necessary to determine what's causing the problem and how to treat it.
The hepatic function panel is considered a safe procedure. However, as with many medical tests, some problems can occur with having blood drawn, like:
Having a blood test is relatively painless. Still, many children are afraid of needles. Explaining the test in terms your child can understand might help ease some of the fear.
Allow your child to ask the technician any questions he or she might have. Tell your child to try to relax and stay still during the procedure, as tensing muscles and moving can make it harder and more painful to draw blood. It also may help if your child looks away when the needle is being inserted into the skin.
If you have questions about the hepatic function panel, speak with your doctor. You can also talk to the technician before the procedure.
Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014
|Neonatal Jaundice This Web site contains information about jaundice, treatment options, and links.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Society of Hematology This group provides information relating to blood, blood-forming tissues, and blood diseases.|
|American Liver Foundation This nonprofit organization promotes liver health and disease prevention.|
|Lab Tests Online This non-commercial site was developed by laboratory professionals to educate caregivers, patients, and patients' families about lab tests.|
|Hepatitis Hepatitis is most commonly caused by one of three viruses. In its early stages, hepatitis may cause flu-like symptoms.|
|Blood Test (Video) These videos show what's involved in getting a blood test and what it's like to be the person taking the blood sample.|
|Hepatitis It's sneaky, it's silent, and it can permanently harm your liver. Read this article for more information on hepatitis.|
|Mononucleosis Mononucleosis - or "mono" - is an infection that produces flu-like symptoms, and usually goes away on its own in a few weeks with the help of plenty of fluids and rest.|
|Getting a Blood Test (Video) A blood test might sound scary, but it usually takes less than a minute. Watch what happens in this video for kids.|
|Hepatitis Hepatitis, an infectious liver disease, is more contagious than HIV, and just like HIV, there is no cure. Find out how to protect yourself.|
|What's Mono? Kissing is just one of the ways that someone can spread mononucleosis. Most people who get mono are between the ages of 15 and 25, but younger kids can get it, too.|
|Hepatitis B (HBV) Hepatitis B can move from one person to another through blood and other bodily fluids. For this reason, people usually get it through unprotected sex or by sharing needles.|
|Mononucleosis It's sometimes called "the kissing disease," but kissing is just one of the ways that someone can catch mono.|
|Jaundice in Healthy Newborns A common condition in newborns, jaundice refers to the yellow color of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by excess bilirubin in the blood.|
|Blood Test: Liver Function Tests If your liver isn't working properly, it can affect your overall health. Find out why doctors do liver function tests and what's involved for teens.|
|Blood Test: Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT, or SGPT) An alanine aminotransferase (ALT) blood test is often part of an initial screening for liver disease.|
|Blood Test: Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST, or SGOT) An aspartate aminotransferase (AST) blood test is often part of an initial screening for liver disease.|
|Blood Test: Bilirubin Doctors may order bilirubin blood tests for infants or older kids if they see signs of the skin taking on the yellow discoloration known as jaundice.|
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