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Gamma Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)

Gamma Glutamyl Transferase (GGT):Gamma Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)

Overview

"Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) is an enzyme that is found in many organs throughout the body, with the highest concentrations found in the liver. GGT is elevated in the blood in most diseases that cause damage to the liver or bile ducts. This test measures the level of GGT in a blood sample.

Normally, GGT is present in low levels, but when the liver is injured, the GGT level can rise. GGT is usually the first liver enzyme to rise in the blood when any of the bile ducts that carry bile from the liver to the intestines become obstructed, for example, by tumors or stones. This makes it the most sensitive liver enzyme test for detecting bile duct problems.

However, the GGT test is not very specific and is not useful in differentiating between various causes of liver damage because it can be elevated with many types of liver diseases, such as liver cancer and viral hepatitis, as well as other non-hepatic conditions, such as acute coronary syndrome. For this reason, the GGT test is not recommended for routine use by itself. However, it can be useful in conjunction with other tests and in determining the cause of a high alkaline phosphatase (ALP) level, another enzyme found in the liver.

Both GGT and ALP are increased in liver diseases, but only ALP will be increased with diseases affecting bone tissue. Therefore, GGT can be used as a follow up to an elevated ALP to help determine if the high ALP result is due to liver or bone disease.

GGT levels are sometimes increased with consumption of even small amounts of alcohol. Higher levels are found more commonly in chronic heavy drinkers than in people who consume less than 2 to 3 drinks per day or who only drink heavily on occasion (binge drinkers). The GGT test may be used in evaluating someone for acute or chronic alcohol abuse.

Why to test Gamma Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)?

To evaluate for a possible liver disease or bile duct disease or to differentiate between liver and bone disease as a cause of elevated alkaline phosphatase (ALP); sometimes to screen for or monitor alcohol abuse. When you have symptoms of a liver or bile duct disorder or as follow up when you have an increased ALP level.

When to test Gamma Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)?

A GGT test may be ordered when someone has an elevated ALP level. An ALP test may be ordered alone or as part of a routine liver panel to screen for liver damage, even if no symptoms are present. A GGT test may be ordered when results of the ALP test are high but other tests that are part of the liver panel (such as AST and ALT) are not increased.

GGT may be ordered along with or as a follow up to other liver function tests when a person has signs or symptoms that suggest liver disease. Some signs and symptoms of liver damage include:

  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal swelling and/or pain
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine, light-colored stool
  • Itching (pruritus)
  • GGT may also be ordered when someone with a history of alcohol abuse has completed alcohol treatment in order to monitor compliance with the treatment program."

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