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What is Antimitochondrial Antibody (AMA) test? 

An AMA test helps determine the level of antimitochondrial antibodies in the blood.

Antimitochondrial antibodies are a type of autoantibodies produced against mitochondria. Mitochondria is an important component of body cells. It is mainly responsible for generating energy for metabolic functions. Autoantibodies attack and destroy healthy cells and tissues against which they are produced thus disrupting the normal functioning of the body. 

Presence of AMAs in the blood is usually an indication of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), an autoimmune disease marked by bile duct damage. AMA test is thus most commonly used to diagnose PBC.

  1. Why is an Antimitochondrial Antibody (AMA) test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for an Anti-mitochondrial Antibody (AMA) test?
  3. How is an Anti-mitochondrial Antibody (AMA) test performed?
  4. What do Antimitochondrial Antibody (AMA) test results mean?

Doctors order this test if the person shows symptoms of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC). This condition is marked by the gradual destruction of bile ducts by antimitochondrial antibodies. Bile ducts damage may lead to liver failure and increase the risk of liver cancer

The following symptoms could be indicative of PBC:

These are all considered to be signs of liver damage. 

If you show abnormal results in any liver test, an AMA test will need to be done. However, AMA test alone is not enough to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor is likely to conduct more tests.

No special preparation is needed for this test. However, in some cases, your doctor may ask you to avoid eating anything six hours before the test. 

For getting the blood test done with ease, you may be asked to wear comfortable and loose clothing. If you are taking any health supplements or medicines, inform the doctor about them before getting tested as certain drugs can alter test results.

(Health checkup app)

A doctor or laboratory technician will draw a blood sample from a vein in your arm after cleaning the needle insertion site with alcohol. You may feel slight pain when the needle is inserted. 

Some risks associated with this test are:

  • Difficulty in obtaining the sample
  • Excessive bleeding at the site of withdrawal of blood 
  • Fainting 
  • Haematoma (accumulation of blood under the skin)
  • Infection at the site where the needle is inserted

However, these risks can easily be reduced if proper precautionary measures are taken.

Normal results:

A negative result, which means that no AMAs are present in the blood, is considered a normal result.

Abnormal results:

A positive result, which means that AMAs are present in the blood, is likely to be due to PBC. A positive result can also indicate the presence of other conditions such as:

Since AMA test is not a confirmatory test for PBC or any specific condition, doctors usually perform additional tests in order to reach a conclusive diagnosis. Your doctor may also order a liver biopsy or imaging studies for this purpose.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

References

  1. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; Antimitochondrial antibody and antimitochondrial M2 antibody
  2. Huang Y. Recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of primary biliary cholangitis. World J Hepatol .2016 Nov 28; 8(33):1419-1441. PMID: 2795
  3. Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. 2012. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders. Pp: 84-180.
  4. Eaton JE, Lindor KD. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management .Primary biliary cirrhosis. 10th ed. 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders. Chap 91.
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Antimitochondrial antibody

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