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Alkaline Phosphatase: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

Alkaline Phosphatase: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information

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What is an Alkaline Phosphatase Test?

An alkaline phosphatase (ALP) test measures the amount of ALP in your blood. ALP is an enzyme found throughout the body, but it is mostly found in the liver, bones, kidneys, and digestive system. When the liver is damaged, ALP may leak into the bloodstream. High levels of ALP can indicate liver disease or bone disorders.

Other names: ALP, ALK, PHOS, Alkp, ALK PHOS

What is it used for?

An alkaline phosphatase test is used to detect diseases of the liver or bones.

Why do I need an alkaline phosphatase test?

Your health care provider may have ordered an alkaline phosphatase test as part of a routine checkup or if you have symptoms of liver damage or a bone disorder. Symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and eyes to turn yellow
  • Swelling and/or pain in your abdomen
  • Dark-colored urine and/or light-colored stool
  • Frequent Itching

Symptoms of bone disorders include:

  • Pain in the bones and/or joints
  • Enlarged and/or abnormally shaped bones
  • Increased frequency of bone fractures

What happens during an alkaline phosphatase test?

An alkaline phosphatase test is a type of blood test. During the test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations for an alkaline phosphatase test. If your health care provider has ordered other blood tests, you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test. Your health care provider will let you know if there are any special instructions to follow.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

High alkaline phosphatase levels may mean there is damage to your liver or that you have a type of bone disorder. Liver damage creates a different type of ALP than bone disorders do. If the test results show high alkaline phosphatase levels, your health care provider may order additional tests to find out where the extra ALP is coming from. High alkaline phosphatase levels in the liver can indicate:

There are several other types of blood tests that check your liver function. These include bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) tests. If these results are normal and your alkaline phosphatase levels are high, it may mean the problem is not in your liver. Instead, it can indicate a bone disorder, such as Paget’s Disease of Bone, a condition that causes your bones to become abnormally large, weak, and prone to fractures.

Moderately high levels of alkaline phosphatase may indicate conditions such as Hodgkin lymphoma, heart failure, or a bacterial infection.

Low levels of alkaline phosphatase may indicate hypophosphatasia, a rare genetic disease that affects bones and teeth. Low levels may also be due to a deficiency of zinc or malnutrition. To learn what your results mean, talk to your health care provider.

Is there anything else I need to know about alkaline phosphatase test?

ALP levels can vary for different groups. Pregnancy can cause higher than normal ALP levels. Children and teens may have high levels of ALP because their bones are growing. Certain drugs, such as birth control pills, may lower ALP levels, while other medicines can cause the levels to increase.

References

  1. American Liver Foundation. [Internet]. New York: American Liver Foundation; c2017. Liver Function Tests; [updated 2016 Jan 25; cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/liverfunctiontests/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis; [updated 2016 Sep 14; cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html
  3. Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth’s Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Alkaline Phosphate; p. 35–6.
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University; Paget Disease of the Bone; [cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/orthopaedic_disorders/paget_disease_of_the_bone_85,P00128/
  5. Josse RG, Hanley DA, Kendler D, Ste Marie LG, Adachi, JD, Brown J. Diagnosis and treatment of Paget disease of bone. Clin Invest Med [Internet] 2007 [cited 2017 Mar 13]; 30(5):E210–23. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17892763/–weakened%20deformed%20bones
  6. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. ALP: The Test; [updated 2016 Oct 5; cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/alp/tab/test
  7. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. ALP: The Test Sample; [updated 2016 Oct 5; cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/alp/tab/sample/
  8. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2017. Laboratory Tests of the Liver and Gall Bladder; [cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/testing-for-hepatic-and-biliary-disorders/laboratory-tests-of-the-liver-and-gallbladder
  9. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What Are the Risks of Blood Tests?; [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 6 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/risks
  10. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What To Expect with Blood Tests; [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/with
  11. NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine: Genetics Home Reference [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; hypophosphatasia; 2017 Mar 7 [cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/hypophosphatasia
  12. NIH National Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Questions and Answers about Paget’s Disease of Bone; 2014 Jun [cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Pagets/qa_pagets.asp
  13. NIH National Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What Is Paget’s Disease of Bone? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public; 2014 Nov [cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Pagets/pagets_disease_ff.asp
  14. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Alkaline Phosphate; [cited 2017 Mar 13]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=alkaline_phosphatase
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