Cirrhosis Diagnosis

How will your doctor diagnose you with this condition? Learn about the tests, exams, processes, and other information relating to the diagnosis of Cirrhosis below.

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How to Diagnose Cirrhosis


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Up to 60% of patients with cirrhosis have no symptoms. The symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Gastrointestinal: lack of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
  • Fever
  • Muscle weakness
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of libido
  • Tremor
  • Slurring of speech
  • Severe itch
  • Confusion

Signs associated with cirrhosis include:

  • Yellow skin or eyeballs
  • Dilated abdomen
  • Breast in men
  • Bruises
  • Bronze appearance
  • Small testicles
  • Swelling in legs
  • Sweet and strong breath odor

Other tests to confirm the diagnosis may include.

Blood Tests-There is no blood test to diagnose cirrhosis. Blood tests can only detect signs of liver function problems, such as:

  • Elevated liver enzymes asparate transaminase (AST), alanine transaminase (ALT) alkaline phosphatase, g-glutamyltransferase (GGT)(an indicator of liver damage)
  • Elevated bilirubin (the pigment that produces jaundice and is usually cleared from the body by the liver)
  • Low serum albumin (a protein made by the liver)
  • Blood clotting abnormalities detected by measuring the prothrombin time
  • Anemia

Special tests are ordered to confirm various causative factors including tests for:

  • Viral hepatitis B and C serologies
  • Autoimmune hepatitis with antinuclear antibodies or anti-smooth muscle antibody
  • Hemochromatosis with transferring saturation, unsaturated iron-binding capacity, ferrtin
  • Wilson's disease with serum copper and ceruloplasmin
  • Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency with serum alpha 1 antitrypsin plus genetic screening
  • Primary billary cirrhosis with antimitochondrial antibody
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody

Imaging Tests -These tests help the physician visualize the liver in various ways to determine whether the size and shape are normal or if the liver shows any signs of cirrhosis. Imaging tests may include:

  • CT Scan-a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the liver
  • Ultrasound-a test that uses echoes of ultrasound waves to examine internal organs.
  • Liver/Spleen Scan
  • Abdominal X-ray-a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)-test that provides detailed inmages of internal organs

Laparoscopy -A tube with a tiny video camera mounted on it is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen. It relays pictures back to a computer screen. This also allows the doctor to see the liver and determine whether the size and shape appear normal.

Liver Biopsy -This is the only definite way to diagnose cirrhosis. A needle is used to obtain a small sample of tissue from the liver. The tissue sample is then examined under a microscope to determine whether it shows scarring or other signs of disease.


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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright ©2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved. Source: EBSCO