1304 Somerville Rd.
Decatur, AL 35601
© 2011. Riverside Gastroenterology
1304 Somerville Rd., Decatur, AL 35601
Tests and procedures used to diagnose nonalcoholic fatty liver disease include:
Blood tests - Liver function tests, including tests of liver enzymes, may help your doctor make a diagnosis. Liver function tests generally refer to a group of blood tests that measure certain enzymes or proteins in your blood. Liver function tests are used to help detect, evaluate and monitor liver disease or damage.
The term "liver function tests" can be misleading, because not all of these tests actually measure liver function. Some tests, such as albumin and bilirubin, do. These liver function tests measure how well the liver is producing the protein albumin and clearing a blood waste product, bilirubin. Other tests commonly done, but not true "liver function" tests, measure enzymes that liver cells release in response to damage or disease.
Imaging procedures - Imaging procedures used to diagnose fatty liver disease include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Liver tissue testing - If it's suspected that you have a more serious form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, your doctor may recommend a procedure to remove a sample of tissue from your liver (liver biopsy). The tissue sample is examined in a laboratory to look for signs of inflammation and scarring. A liver biopsy is typically done using a long needle inserted through your skin and into your liver to remove liver cells (needle biopsy).
In most instances, treatment of fatty liver and steatohepatitis requires control of the underlying conditions. This may include reduction of high blood triglycerides, good control of diabetes, or not drinking alcohol. In some cases, surgical reversal of intestinal bypass for obesity is required.
Since being overweight is by far the most critical factor, weight loss is the key to ridding the liver of fat. This is especially necessary if damage to the liver is occurring, and early signs of scarring are present on biopsy. High blood triglycerides and diabetes are also worse with obesity. So, when steatohepatitis is present with these conditions, people gain even greater benefits from losing weight. Losing weight can be difficult. However, it must be done because the alternative may be eventual cirrhosis and the need for a liver transplant.
Currently, studies are underway on certain drugs such as Actigall. This drug appears to reduce liver damage in cases of steatohepatitis. At this time, however, it is not certain how helpful these drugs will be. To repeat the point, losing weight is by far the most important treatment.
Liver transplantation is now an accepted form of treatment for chronic, severe liver damage. Advances in surgical techniques and the use of new drugs to suppress rejection have dramatically improved the success rate. Steatohepatitis is one of the more uncommon reasons for a liver transplant. However, every transplant center does a few each year as a result of this disease. Survival rates at transplant centers are well over 90% with a good quality of life after recovery.
Fatty liver disease can be a reversible condition, however the prognosis varies greatly depending on the extent of the disease. Dr. Short will be happy to discuss your long term prognosis during your visit.