Diagnosing cirrhosis

If your GP suspects cirrhosis, they'llcheck your medical history and carry out a physical examination to look for signs of chronic liver disease.

If your GP suspects your liver is damaged, you'll be referred for tests to confirm the diagnosis.


You may have a number of different tests, including those described below.

Blood tests

Blood tests can measure your liver function and the amount of liver damage.

A blood test may be used to measure the levels of the liver enzymes alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transferase (AST) in your blood, as these will be raised if you have inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) .


An ultrasound scan ,transient elastography scan, computerised tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be carried out on your liver.

Atransient elastography scan is similar to an ultrasound scan carried out during pregnancy and is sometimes known as a Fibroscan.

These scans can produce detailed images of your liver or check liver stiffness to identify any scarring.

The Lab Tests Online UK website hasmore information about ALT and AST measurements.


A liver biopsy is where afine needle is inserted into your body, usually between your ribs, to removea small sample of liver cells. The sample is sent to a laboratory so it can be examined under a microscope.

The biopsy is usually carried out under local anaesthetic , either as a day case or with an overnight stay in hospital.

The outcome of the biopsy will confirm a diagnosis of cirrhosis and may provide more information about the cause.

Transient elastography is increasingly being used as an alternative to a biopsy in the diagnosis of cirrhosis.


An endoscopy is wherea thin, long, flexible tube with a light and video camera at the end called an endoscope is passed down your throat and into your stomach.

Images of your oesophagus, the tube from your throat to your stomach, and yourstomach are transmitted to an external screen, where any swollen vessels(varices),which are a sign of cirrhosis, can be seen.


There are several different grading systems for cirrhosis according to how serious it is.

One system is theChild-Pugh score, which, based on your examination and laboratory tests, grades cirrhosis from A (relatively mild) to C (severe).

An alternativesystem calledmodel of end-stage liver disease (MELD) uses the results of a blood test to help identifypeople who need an urgent liver transplant.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017