The detection of abnormal liver function tests warrants further investigation. It is important to establish the degree of liver scarring (or fibrosis) in order to intervene and offer an appropriate management plan. Fibroscan represents the ideal non-invasive method to establish the degree of liver fibrosis. A patient can undergo a Fibroscan at a single consultation and leave that consultation knowing the degree of liver damage they have.
It’s major advantage is that it is a quick and painless way of assessing liver health and in a significant proportion of patients, it has replaced liver biopsy. The importance of Fibroscan lies in the fact that in many cases there are no outward signs of moderate or even severe liver disease, the fact that a 10 minute investigation can provide such critical information on liver health represents a major development in liver medicine.
Abnormal liver function tests and liver disease.
Deaths from liver disease in the UK are rising with the potential for liver disease to become the UK’s biggest killer within a generation. The major causes of liver disease; alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis often remain under the radar and the link between these conditions and advanced liver disease under appreciated. In the first instance, routine blood tests to detect abnormal liver function should be undertaken more often. Abnormal liver function tests reflect on going activity within the liver, this activity or inflammation is the starting point for liver scarring (or fibrosis), which can ultimately lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
What does the liver do?
The liver is in the upper right part of the abdomen. The functions of the liver include: storing glycogen (fuel for the body) which is made from sugars; helping to process fats and proteins from digested food; making proteins that are essential for blood to clot (clotting factors); processing many medicines which you may take; helping to remove poisons and toxins from the body. The liver also makes bile which helps to digest fats.
Why measure liver function?
Liver function tests, sometimes called liver enzymes or liver tests, or transaminases are a collection of usually 5 biochemical tests that are used as a screen to see if there is any evidence of liver trouble such as a damaged or inflamed liver, or used to monitor an existing abnormality.
The reasons your doctor measured your liver function might be one of the following reasons:
- Part of a general health screen
- To help diagnose liver disorders if you have suggestive symptoms (such as jaundice). The pattern of the blood results may help to say which disorder is causing the problem. For example, depending on which enzyme is highest it may point to a particular disorder.
- To monitor the activity and severity of liver disorders.
- As a routine precaution after starting certain medicines such as a statin to check that they are not causing liver damage as a side-effect.
- You might have a condition, such as diabetes, where fat in the liver can cause abnormal liver results
- Your doctor may also be concerned with regards to your lifestyle, such as your alcohol intake or another condition you suffer from, such as colitis, may predispose you to liver disease.
What is fibroscan?
In the early stages of liver disease, symptoms are almost non-existent and conventional ultrasounds are poor at confirming any damage. A fibroscan is a liver scan that offers a risk free and highly accurate alternative – scanning the stiffness of your liver – instantly pinpointing any problems.
If you do have early changes within your liver, treatment can be tailored to your need.
A major risk factor to liver disease is unhealthy lifestyle especially excess alcohol consumption, increased weight, diabetes and blood pressure.
Your liver is tough. It can withstand years of damage by repairing itself and protecting the rest of your body. However, the liver is unable to signal real distress until it is in the end stages of liver failure, so that by the time you feel any symptoms of liver problems, the damage may be done.
If you feel that your lifestyle has taken its toll on your liver, this simple and risk free test is the answer!
Why opt for fibroscan?
Fibroscan technology allows accurate assessment of liver fibrosis resulting from various pathologies that cause damage to the liver, including metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, chronic viral hepatitis and excess alcohol intake.
The advantages of Fibroscan are:
- It is a painless examination
- It provides an instantaneous result
- It is a proven evaluation of the liver, independent of extra-hepatic condition
- The patient can leave the hospital immediately after the test
- It is an operator-independent measurement
- It is very easy to use
- No anaesthetics are necessary
The fibroscan is a very useful diagnostic tool for a hepatologist to accurately identify patients with significant liver disease – allowing treatment to be tailored to the individuals need. Fibroscan should not be used on patients with ascites, patients who are pregnant, patients under the age of 18 years, or patients who have implanted electronic devices.
How does fibroscan work?
A probe is placed at the skin’s surface. Using a combination of an elastic wave (generated by a mechanical pulse) and ultrasound technology, a numerical value is recorded. The stiffer the liver, the higher the value. The degree of stiffness of the liver is an indicator of damage, from whatever cause. Ten valid readings must be recorded. The test is completely painless and normally takes up to half an hour to complete.
With no restriction on the frequency of use, fibroscan can monitor the progression, stagnation or regression of an individual’s liver disease and give an accurate quantitative measure of the success of treatments or lifestyle modification.
In some cases fibroscan may reduce the need for liver biopsy when assessing disease progress.
In the early stages of liver disease, symptoms are almost non-existent and liver function tests and conventional ultrasound has a poor predictive value in assessing fibrosis.
Liver tests routinely carried out by general practitioners and other doctors are really a screening test, and have limited value in deciding the nature of any liver complaint. They really just warn us to check the liver’ rather than indicating any firm diagnosis.
To decide what the problem is requires a detailed assessment of lifestyle, drug history, personal and travel history, the history of family members’ illnesses, a detailed physical examination, and a number of additional blood tests. An ultrasound scan is done to image the structure of the liver and surrounding organs. Sometimes a biopsy of the liver is required, and there are other, specialised tests like that are occasionally needed. Very often, abnormalities found by screening turn out to have no significance, and people can be reassured. Sometimes, however, important clinical conditions like Haemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, Coeliac disease, Viral hepatitis, Primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune chronic active hepatitis, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) or primary sclerosing cholangitis are found.
All of these can be markedly improved or cured by simple treatments. Rarely, abnormal liver function tests are an indication of a cancer, but this is usually rapidly sorted out with a scan or two, and it is a very uncommon reason for people with abnormal liver tests being sent to a liver clinician. The single most common reason for abnormal liver tests these days is obesity, with fat being deposited in the liver causing the problem.
To book your private liver scan or to ask a question, you can contact our appointments team by calling 020 7078 3802 or email email@example.com. Our team will endeavor to find the most convenient fibroscan appointment for you with same day appointments often available.