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Forum Name: Liver Diseases

Question: What does high billirubin mean for the liver? is it fatal?


 bereal - Wed Sep 14, 2005 3:20 pm

I was told today that I have a high billirubin total. I t is suppose to be in the range of .2-1.2 and I came in at 4.2. What does this mean? What do billirubin do for the liver? Can this be fatal? How can I reduce that level of billirubin?
Please help
Thank you
 Dr. A. Sillén - Thu Sep 15, 2005 2:59 pm

"Bereal",

Bilirubin is a degradation product of Haemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen). The bilirubin is transported to the liver bound to a plasma protein called albumin. In the liver, the bilirubin is transformed (conjugated) and excreted into the intestine through the bile duct.

Raised bilirubin can be caused by a number of different things. In liver disease, bilirubin is often raised, together with some or all of the other important liver function tests - such as AST, ALT, ALP etc... You did not indicate whether any other tests were done or if you have any symtoms. Without that information it is hard to say anything else.

If other liver tests were taken and came out normal, there is most likely nothing to worry about. A fair percentage of people have a congenital dysfunction in liver metabolism causing an isolated raise in bilirubin levels. This is called Gilbert's syndrome and is quite harmless. The other possible cause of an isolated raise in bilirubin levels is haemolysis, ie increased degradation of red blood cells. But again, that would cause other tests (Haemoglobin level) to come out abnormal.
Finally, in isolated test abnormalities, there is always the possibility of a chance error at the lab (happen's all the time).

Summary: A raised bilirubin level is not dangerous by itself. Consult your doctor again for further information/advice.

Good luck!
Anders, MD

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