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SGOT stands for Serum Glutamic Oxaloacetic Transminase. It's an enzyme produced by the liver, and is also known as aspartate transaminase (AST). Along with serum glutamic peruvic transaminase (SGPT), also known as alanine transaminase (ALT), SGOT is one of the most important liver enzymes in terms of diagnosing liver disease. It's also important in terms of liver function. Its presence in the liver is normal and healthy, but it should not be released into the blood in large quantities and an elevated level of SGOT usually indicates damage to the liver. SGOT levels may also be elevated when there is damage to the heart, e.g. from cardiovascular disease or a heart attack, and may result from the use of certain medications.


A blood test for SGOT levels is usually conducted along with other liver enzyme analysis to detect the presence of liver disease early. In the early stages, liver disease does not have symptoms, or if it does the symptoms are very mild and easily mistaken for something else. By the time symptoms appear, the damage to the liver may be irreversible, so it's better to detect the disease early and treat it, usually with lifestyle changes. A liver enzyme blood test, which includes a test for SGOT levels, is an important part of diagnosis.

Risk Factors

A liver enzyme blood test may be prescribed if a patient is at risk for developing liver damage, liver disease, or elevated enzymes. One of the most common risk factors is high alcohol consumption. If a person is in treatment for alcohol dependency, liver function tests will always be indicated, as alcohol abuse is a high-risk factor for developing liver disease. Continued below....

Other risk factors include obesity, type II diabetes, and the use of certain prescription medications, especially the statin family of drugs often prescribed to help reduce serum cholesterol levels as a preventative for cardiovascular disease.

If an elevated SGOT level is detected, along with other liver-enzyme elevations, further diagnostic procedures are usually indicated. This should include examination of the liver with medical imaging technology such as ultrasound or MRI, and perhaps a follow up with a liver biopsy to detect serious liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and cancer of the liver.

What Does Elevated SGOT Indicate?

Elevated liver enzymes usually indicate some sort of problem with the liver. Elevated SGOT levels particularly, especially when they are at a higher level than SGPT or ALT, often indicate alcohol-related liver disease. (Alcohol abuse is the single most common cause of liver disease, although the majority of liver disease stems from other causes.) If the reverse is true -- that is, if SGPT is elevated to a higher level than SGOT -- this is usually an indication of non-alcoholic liver disease. The specific nature of the problem can vary widely and further diagnostic procedures are called for to pinpoint it. It may be an indication of fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat deposits accumulate in the liver and cause the organ mild levels of stress, resulting in the release of liver enzymes. Fatty liver is normally asymptomatic and is not in itself a danger to life or health, but it can be an early indicator of more serious diseases and so early detection and reversal are desirable.

More serious liver diseases include hepatitis, a swelling or inflammation of the liver that can result from viral infection, liver damage arising from alcohol abuse or other causes, or toxins. Cirrhosis of the liver, a very serious illness in which the liver develops fibrous scar tissue and that progresses to complete hepatic dysfunction and death, can also be detected with a test for liver enzymes. Fibrotic scarring or the development of fibrous tissue growth in the liver is called fibrosis, is a development in the progression of cirrhosis of the liver, but is also an illness of the liver in itself and treatment with lifestyle changes (reduction of alcohol consumption, weight reduction, etc.) is required. Cancer of the liver also produces elevated liver enzymes and of course liver cancer is a serious concern.

Elevated SGOT levels can arise without indicating liver damage, however. Damage to the heart can also raise SGOT levels. Obviously that is also cause for medical concern, but further diagnosis is required to determine whether heart problems rather than liver problems are causing the liver enzyme elevation. Elevated liver enzymes can also result from the use of medications. This is a fairly common side effect of the use of statin drugs to reduce cholesterol. Actual damage to the liver from statins is rare, and the benefits to health from reduction of cholesterol is significant enough that elevation of liver enzymes is considered an acceptable side effect. However, the condition calls for monitoring in case liver damage does develop.


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