What is the AST test?

This blood test measures an enzyme called aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Enzymes are chemicals that help the cells of your body work. AST is found in red blood cells, liver cells, and muscle cells, including the heart. It is released into the blood when these cells are damaged.

This enzyme is also called serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, or SGOT.

Why is this test done?

The AST level is measured to check the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, muscles, and red blood cells. This test is also done to check medical treatments that may affect the liver.

How do I prepare for this test?

  • You may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that you are taking. Ask your provider before stopping any of your regular medicines.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.

How is the test done?

Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of the test.

What does the test result mean?

Some of the reasons your AST level may be higher than normal are:

  • You have liver damage caused by:
    • Infection, such as viral hepatitis or mononucleosis
    • Gallbladder disease
    • Poisons, such as too much alcohol
    • Cancer
  • You have muscle damage caused by:
    • A muscle disease
    • An injury, such as after a fall, auto accident, or seizure
  • You have kidney, pancreas, heart, or liver disease or damage.
  • You are taking a medicine that affects the test result.
  • No medical problems are known to cause an AST level that is lower than normal. Sometimes the test result may be lower than normal but it does not mean there is a problem.

What if my test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about the results and ask questions, such as:

  • If you need more tests
  • What kind of treatment you might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes you might need to make

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