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Jaundice (cont.)

Exams and Tests

The health care pracitioner will need to take a detailed history of the patient's illness, and he or she will also be examined to see if there are any findings that indicate the cause of the patient's jaundice. However, additional testing is usually required to clearly determine the underlying cause of jaundice. The following tests and imaging studies may be obtained:

Blood tests

These may initially include a complete blood count (CBC), liver function tests (including a bilirubin level), lipase/amylase level to detect inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), and an electrolytes panel. In women, a pregnancy test may be obtained. Additional blood tests may be required depending upon the initial results and the history provided to the practitioner.

Urinalysis

Urinalysis is an analysis of the urine and is a very useful test in the diagnosis of screening many diseases.

Imaging Studies

  • Ultrasound: This is a safe, painless imaging study that uses sound waves to examine the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. It is very useful for detecting gallstones and dilated bile ducts. It can also detect abnormalities of the liver and the pancreas.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan: ACT scan is imaging study similar to an X-ray that provides more details of all the abdominal organs. Though not as good as ultrasound at detecting gallstones, it can identify various other abnormalities of the liver, pancreas, and other abdominal organs as well.
  • Cholescintigraphy (HIDA scan): A HIDA scan is an imaging study that uses a radioactive substance to evaluate the gallbladder and the bile ducts.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):MRI is an imaging study that uses a magnetic field to examine the organs of the abdomen. It can be useful for detailed imaging of the bile ducts.
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP):ERCP is a procedure that involves the introduction of an endoscope (a tube with a camera at the end) through the mouth and into thesmall intestine. A dye is then injected into the bile ducts while X-rays are taken. It can be useful for identifying stones, tumors, or narrowing of the bile ducts.
Liver Biopsy

  • In this procedure, a needle is inserted into the liver after a local anesthetic has been administered. Often ultrasound will be used to guide placement of the needle. The small sample of liver tissue which is obtained is sent to a laboratory for examination by a pathologist (a physician who specializes in diagnosis of tissue samples). Among other things, a liver biopsy can be useful for diagnosing inflammation of the liver, cirrhosis, and cancer.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2014
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