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Liver blood marker testing in UK primary care: a UK wide cohort study, 2004-2016

Scutt, Polly; Ban, Lu; Card, Tim; Crooks, Colin John; Guha, Neil; West, Joe; Morling, Joanne R.

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Lu Ban

Clinical Associate Professor

Professor of Hepatology

Professor of Epidemiology


OBJECTIVE: We aimed to determine (1) the temporal trends of liver enzyme testing in UK general practice and (2) how these vary among different subgroups at risk of chronic liver disease (CLD). DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: UK primary care database (Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD)), 2004-2016. PARTICIPANTS: Patients aged 18 years or over, registered in the CPRD from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2016. OUTCOME MEASURES: The frequency of testing recorded within the study period in general practice was calculated for: alanine aminotransferase (ALT); aspartate aminotransferase (AST); gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT); alkaline phosphatase (ALP); bilirubin and platelets. Analyses were conducted in subgroups of patients at high risk of developing liver disease. RESULTS: The study cohort included 2 912 066 individuals with median follow-up of 3.2 years. The proportion of patients with at least one measurement for ALT, ALP, bilirubin or platelet test gradually increased over the course of the study period and fell for AST and GGT. By 2016, the proportion of the population receiving one of more tests in that year was: platelet count 28.0%, ALP 26.2%, bilirubin 25.6%, ALT 23.7%, GGT 5.1% and AST 2.2%. Those patients with risk factors for CLD had higher proportions receiving liver marker assessments than those without risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: The striking finding that AST is now only measured in a fraction of the population has significant implications for routine guidance which frequently expects it. A more nuanced approach where non-invasive markers are targeted towards individuals with risk factors for CLD may be a solution.


Scutt, P., Ban, L., Card, T., Crooks, C. J., Guha, N., West, J., & Morling, J. R. (2022). Liver blood marker testing in UK primary care: a UK wide cohort study, 2004-2016. BMJ Open, 12(9), e058967.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 17, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 26, 2022
Publication Date Oct 26, 2022
Deposit Date Mar 28, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 26, 2022
Journal BMJ open
Electronic ISSN 2044-6055
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 9
Pages e058967
Keywords screening; early diagnosis; aspartate aminotransferase; policy; population
Public URL
Publisher URL


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