Diagnostic criteria and contributors to Gilbert's syndrome

Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2018 Mar;55(2):129-139. doi: 10.1080/10408363.2018.1428526. Epub 2018 Feb 1.


Hyperbilirubinemia is a well-known condition in the clinical setting; however, the causes of elevated serum bilirubin are diverse, as are the clinical ramifications of this condition. For example, diagnoses of individuals vary depending on whether they exhibit an unconjugated or conjugated hyperbilirubinemia. Diagnoses can include conditions of disordered bilirubin metabolism (Gilbert's, Crigler-Najjar, Rotor, or Dubin-Johnson syndromes) or an acquired disease, including alcoholic/non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatotropic hepatitis, cirrhosis, or hepato-biliary malignancy. Assessment of bilirubin concentrations is typically conducted as part of routine liver function testing. Mildly elevated total bilirubin with normal serum activities of liver transaminases, biliary damage markers, and red blood cell counts, however, may indicate the presence of Gilbert's syndrome (GS), a benign condition that is present in ∼5-10% of the population. In this case, mildly elevated unconjugated bilirubin in GS is strongly associated with "reduced" prevalence of chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (and associated risk factors), as well as CVD-related and all-cause mortality. These reports challenge the dogma that bilirubin is simply a potentially neurotoxic by-product of heme catabolism and emphasize the importance of understanding its potential beneficial physiologic and detrimental pathophysiologic effects, in order to appropriately consider bilirubin test results within the clinical laboratory setting. With this information, we hope to improve the understanding of disorders of bilirubin metabolism, emphasize the diagnostic importance of these conditions, and outline the potential impact GS may have on resistance to disease.

Keywords: Crigler-Najjar syndrome; Gilbert´s syndrome; UGT1A1; bilirubin; diagnosis; hyperbilirubinemia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Gilbert Disease / blood
  • Gilbert Disease / diagnosis*
  • Gilbert Disease / genetics
  • Glucuronosyltransferase / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia


  • UGT1A1 enzyme
  • Glucuronosyltransferase
  • Bilirubin