When the liver becomes damaged, enzymes known as aminotransferases are released more liberally into the bloodstream. One type of these enzymes is called aspartate aminotransferase (AST), which also goes by the name of serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT). Before prescribing some medications or when liver disease is suspected, a doctor may order a routine blood examination called a SGOT test to make sure this enzyme is not too concentrated in the blood — a clear signal of deeper medical problems.
Children or adults suspected of having liver disease or even hepatitis have a common set of symptoms. These include jaundiced, or yellowed, skin, deep yellow or even orange urine, frequent nausea and vomiting, and even a swollen stomach area. These symptoms also can be caused by certain types of medications, which physicians need to know about before prescribing other drugs. These medications can be antibiotics, pain relievers as common as aspirin and ibuprofen, or several medications prescribed to reduce cholesterol, seizures, depression and cardiovascular strain.
The SGOT test will be ordered to see if an excess amount of this enzyme is being released into the blood, which would indicate a need for further testing. SGOT or AST is present in several organs like the heart, liver, kidneys, muscles and even the brain. If a high level is discovered during the test, it could be due to damage to one or several of these organs.
By contrast, another common liver enzyme, called alanine aminotransferase (ALT), is found primarily in the liver. Also called serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT), a blood test for ALT/SGPT will help physicians determine if damage has been done to the liver or another organ. Often, a SGOT test will include a test for SGPT.
High levels of ALT or AST found during an SGPT or SGOT test does not necessarily mean liver damage. Some kinds of muscle damage or strain can create higher levels of aminotransferases. Strains of viral hepatitis also cause these levels to rise, as can rarer disorders like hemachromatosis, Wilson's disease, celiac disease and alcerative colitis. To get closer to the particular disorder, a red flag found during a SGPT or SGOT test often causes doctors to order other tests. These are called coagulation panel, albumin level, platelet count and bilirubin tests, which more closely analyze how liver damage has been caused.