Diagnosis

People with early-stage cirrhosis of the liver usually don't have symptoms. Often, cirrhosis is first detected through a routine blood test or checkup. Your doctor may order one or more laboratory tests that may suggest a problem with your liver, such as cirrhosis.

Laboratory tests:

  • Liver function. Your blood is checked for excess bilirubin, which is a product of red blood cells breaking down, as well as for certain enzymes that may indicate liver damage.
  • Kidney function. Your blood is checked for creatinine as kidney function may decline in later stages of cirrhosis (decompensated cirrhosis).
  • Tests for hepatitis B and C. Your blood is checked for the hepatitis viruses.
  • Clotting. Your international normalized ratio (INR) is checked for your blood's ability to clot.

Your doctor may order imaging and other tests to further diagnose cirrhosis:

  • Magnetic resonance elastography or transient elastography. These noninvasive imaging tests detect hardening or stiffening of the liver and may eliminate the need for a liver biopsy.
  • Other imaging tests. MRI, CT and ultrasound create images of the liver.
  • Biopsy. A tissue sample (biopsy) is not necessarily needed to diagnose cirrhosis. However, your doctor may use it to identify the severity, extent and cause of liver damage.

If you have cirrhosis, your doctor is likely to recommend regular diagnostic tests to monitor for signs of disease progression or complications, especially esophageal varices and liver cancer.