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Serum bile acid measurement

Bile acids are formed in the liver from cholesterol and their main function is to break down dietary fats. They also aid the absorption of fats by converting them into tiny droplets that are more readily available to the gastric acids. If not enough bile gets into the duodenum, fats are not digested properly, causing problems such as bloating and constipation.

Bile acids also play an important role in the proper functioning of the immune system, because if not enough bile acid is produced, fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, E, D and K) cannot be absorbed.

Bile acids also ensure the health of the intestinal flora, but they are present in minimal amounts in the circulation of a healthy body.

What does the test show?

The test shows the bile acid levels of the body.

When is it recommended to have the test?

During pregnancy, the amount of steroid hormones changes, which contributes to the relaxation of the bile ducts, therefore bile cannot flow freely and accumulates (stagnates) in the liver. In gestational cholestasis, bile acid measurement is the best marker for the diagnosis of the disease. Cholestasis can also have serious adverse effects on the foetus, so it is suggested having the test done in the third trimester of pregnancy to help diagnose gestational cholestasis or to monitor treatment of an already diagnosed condition.

Measuring bile acid levels may also be useful in certain non-hepatic diseases, such as acute pancreatitis or bile acid malabsorption associated with chronic diarrhoea.

What sample is needed for the test?

The test is performed on an empty stomach (no food should be eaten in the 12 hours before the blood is taken) and serum bile acid is measured from a blood sample taken from a vein.

What can the result indicate?

High levels of bile acids can damage the cells of the body.

What to do after the test?

The test alone does not diagnose any disease, and you should always consult an internist or haematologist with the results to determine the exact diagnosis and the necessary therapy.

Serum bile acid measurement - Medicover

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