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What is an LFT test?



My youngest brother is in prison. He has Hepatitis from needle drug use - which is what put him in prison, twice. (He is not a murderer or rapist or a child abuser.) His liver has been giving him trouble this past year. Doctors have run several tests on him, but don`t give him information on the tests. I discovered that the alpha feto-protein test he has recently been given will check for cancer of the liver. He also mentioned what he thought were three different "LFT tests" with "doubled levels". Does any of this make sense? He`s been trying to get a biopsy for some time now. He will be released this fall after 13 years. He is in his early 30`s. As a major part of his family support, I want to know what to expect with his health. Plus, I need to pass the information on to him.


I suspect your brother likely is infected with the Hepatitis C virus. This is often transmitted via intravenous drug use. Sometimes, people with hep C, if they have this long enough, are at increased risk for developing liver cancer. This is what the alpha-fetoprotein looks to measure in the blood.

I realize that you do not have a lot of details, and as such I can only be general with this advice. I would have your brother seen by a hepatologist (liver specialist) upon discharge from prison. A well-trained hepatologist will be able to analyze your brother's blood work, obtain CT scans to screen for cancer, as well as likely treat your brother for Hepatitis C and maybe even rid his body of the virus.

Although not an emergency, I would look to set this up for him in short order. Without treatment and care, if he does have hepatitis C, he can, at some point, go into liver failure and/or develop cancer in his liver.

Best of luck to you and your brother.

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Response by:

Steven  M Rudich, MD, PhD, FACS Steven M Rudich, MD, PhD, FACS
Professor of Surgery, Director of Liver Transplat and Hepatobiliary Surgery
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati