The goals of testing are to determine the cause of jaundice and to evaluate the severity of the underlying condition. Initial testing, usually a physical exam conducted by the health care provider, is generally focused on the liver. Specific additional tests, such as viral hepatitis testing and/or testing to evaluate increased red blood cell destruction, may be ordered along with or following the initial tests based on the clinical findings and the doctor's suspicions of the cause of the jaundice.
Some tests are used to detect liver damage and evaluate liver function and may include:
- Liver panel, often comprised of:
- Prothrombin time (PT): the liver produces proteins involved in the clotting (coagulation) of blood; the PT measures clotting function and, if abnormal, may indicate liver damage.
- Urine bilirubin (often as part of a urinalysis)
Some tests may be used to detect infections that affect the liver, such as:
Tests used to detect decreased red blood cell survival may include:
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Reticulocyte count (if CBC is abnormal)
- Blood smear: to visualize RBCs under a microscope
Imaging tests and liver biopsies may be used to help evaluate the status and structure of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. Testing may include:
- Abdominal ultrasound
- CT (computed tomography) scan
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, often including MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatogram, to visualize the pancreas and bile ducts)
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP, a direct imaging of the pancreas and bile ducts)
- Liver biopsy
Visit RadiologyInfo.org for more details about imaging tests.