Is an Alkaline Phosphatase Level Test?
phosphatase level test (ALP test) measures the amount of alkaline
phosphatase enzyme in your bloodstream. The test requires a simple blood draw
and is often a routine part of other blood tests.
Abnormal levels of ALP in your blood most often indicate a
problem with your liver, gall bladder, or bones. However, they may also
indicate malnutrition, kidney tumors, or a serious infection. The normal range
of ALP varies from person to person and depends on your age, blood type, gender,
and whether or not you are pregnant.
What Is Alkaline Phosphatase?
Alkaline phosphatase is
an enzyme found in your bloodstream. ALP helps break down proteins in the body
and exists in different forms, depending on where it originates. It is mostly
produced in your liver, but some is also made in your bones, intestines, and
kidneys. In pregnant women, ALP is made in the placenta.
Take an Alkaline Phosphatase Level Test?
An ALP test may be performed to determine how well your liver and
gall bladder are functioning or to identify problems with your bones.
Liver and Gall Bladder
Checking ALP levels in the blood is a routine part of a liver
function and gall bladder tests. Symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain,
vomiting, and nausea may lead your doctor to suspect there is something wrong
with your liver or gallbladder.
The ALP test can be helpful in identifying conditions such as:
- hepatitis (inflammation
or infection of the liver)
- cirrhosis (scarring
of the liver)
- cholescystitis (inflammation
of the gallbladder)
of bile ducts (from gallstone, inflammation, or cancer)
You may also need an ALP test if you are taking a medication that
has the potential to damage your liver, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Measuring ALP is one way to check for that damage.
The ALP test can be helpful in the diagnosis of bone problems
weakening of bones due to deficiency of calcium, phosphate, or vitamin D
softening of the bones due to vitamin D deficiency or the body’s inability to
break down the vitamin properly
disease: disorder causing major problems with bone destruction and regrowth
ALP testing can also be helpful in investigating vitamin D
deficiency, the presence of tumors, or unusual bone growth. It can also be used
to check the progress of treatment for any of the above conditions.
Should I Prepare for the Test?
Having blood drawn for an ALP test is routine, and you will most
likely not need to do anything to prepare ahead of time. If the results of the
test are inconclusive, your doctor may order a follow-up test. In this case,
you will probably be asked to fast for 10 hours before the test.
Eating can interfere with your ALP levels. Medications can also
change your ALP levels; be sure to tell your doctor about any medicines you are
Is the Test Administered?
An ALP test requires a health professional to draw a small sample
of blood from your arm. This will be done in your doctor’s office or in a
clinical lab. The doctor or nurse will clean the skin on the inside of your
elbow with an antiseptic and apply an elastic band to allow blood to fill the
vein. They will then insert a needle into the vein to draw blood into a small
tube. The process is quick and causes little pain or discomfort.
Are the Risks of an Alkaline Phosphatase Level Test?
There are very few risks associated with having your blood drawn.
You may experience some bruising around the puncture site, but this can be
avoided by putting pressure on the wound. In rare cases, phlebitis (inflammation of the
vein) may develop. If you experience this complication, apply a warm compress
until the swelling goes down. Inform your doctor before your blood is taken if
you have any bleeding disorders.
Do the Test Results Mean?
When the results of your ALP test are in, your doctor will
discuss them with you and tell you what to do next.
Higher than normal levels of ALP in your blood may indicate a
problem with your liver or gall bladder. This could include hepatitis (infection), cirrhosis (scarring), liver
cancer, gallstones, or a blockage in your bile ducts.
High levels may also indicate an issue related to the bones such
as rickets, Paget’s disease, bone cancer, or an overactive parathyroid gland.
In rare cases, high ALP levels can indicate heart failure, kidney cancer,
mononucleosis, or a blood infection.
Lower than normal ALP levels in your blood is rare, but can
indicate malnutrition, which could be caused by celiac disease or a deficiency
in vitamins and minerals.