The ALK blood test, which is more commonly known as the ALP or the alkaline phosphatase blood test, is ordered by medical professionals to help detect bone disorders or liver disease. When there is something that affects bone growth or causes bone cells to have an increased level of activity, then there will be an increased level of alkaline phosphatase that can be detected in the blood.
When liver cells are damaged, increased levels of alkaline phosphatase can be detected because it is tends to be higher along the edges of cells that join together to form bile ducts. If a bile duct then becomes blocked for some reason, then blood levels of alkaline phosphatase are higher.
When Is the ALK Blood Test Ordered?
This blood test is often ordered as part of a patient’s regular health checkup. It is included in the series of tests that are taken for a liver panel. It may also be ordered on its own when someone is suffering from the signs or symptoms of liver disease or a bone disorder.
Those signs and symptoms which may trigger the ALK blood test being ordered may include a general feeling of weakness or fatigue, a lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and swelling in the abdomen. Specific liver issues, such as a yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, light-colored stools, and systemic itching may also be present.
Some may also experience bone pain, joint pain, a medical history of increased fractures, or bone deformations.
Only a qualified medical professional can determine if the ALK blood test should be ordered and be able to interpret what the results of the test mean with a patient’s individual medical history.
What Do the ALK Blood Test Results Mean?
Results for this blood test are generally communicated as being high, normal, or low. When there are high levels of alkaline phosphatase present, then this generally means that the liver has been damaged in some way or that something has caused an increase in bone cell activity.
When a full liver panel has been taken, the additional results will be used with this specific test to begin determining a diagnosis. This may include the AST blood test, the ALT blood test, and tests for bilirubins. If these additional liver tests are also high, then the result will likely be an issue with the liver. If the results or low or normal, then the high ALK blood test will typically be coming from increased bone cell activity.
Some results might be communicated as “moderately high” by some laboratories. This could occur because of a simple bacterial infection, ulcerative colitis, congestive heart failure, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
If the results of the ALK blood test are normal, then additional testing may be required to determine the cause of the bothersome signs and symptoms that are being experienced. Most people, when given a liver panel during a regular health checkup, will have test results that fall into this category.
Low results for this blood test are uncommon, but may be seen on a temporary basis after receiving a heart bypass surgery or immediately after a blood transfusion. People who have a zinc deficiency have also been known to have low test results, as are individuals dealing with a protein deficiency or malnutrition. Certain genetic bone disorders may also alter ALK test results.
Here’s What You Need To Know About the ALK Blood Test
Women who are pregnant may experience temporarily high levels of alkaline phosphatase. These levels typically normalize after delivery. Temporary increases are also seen when someone is healing from a fracture.
Children have higher levels of alkaline phosphatase simply because of their growth patterns. Levels may spike during a growth spurt. This is considered a normal result.
Certain medications may affect test results. If your doctor or medical professional has ordered this test, then speak with them about any oral contraceptives you may be taking, as well as any anti-epileptic medication.
There is also a second ALK blood test that is available which helps to test for certain types of cancer in a specific way. It combines a complete review of your family history, along with a genetic analysis, to offer a comprehensive set of risks for future cancer development. This test is generally not covered by US health insurance providers and requires a $475 upfront patient price when ordered online or at participating institutions.
The ALK blood test is designed to help provide you with a picture of liver and bone health. Use this guide to ask questions about your health if you are experiencing the listed bothersome signs and symptoms so that a treatment plan to address your concerns can be developed.