Liver Disease Clinic
Patients are referred to the Liver Disease Clinic by their primary physician or other specialist when they exhibit symptoms or signs of suspected liver disease.
Liver disease can produce symptoms such as pain in the right upper abdomen or jaundice. Often patients have not specific symptoms or have nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and itching. The evaluation may be requested due to normal liver tests or a finding of viral hepatitis B or C.
Although liver disease can be caused by excessive alcohol use, the most common liver disease evaluated in this clinic is "fatty liver" or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The latter parallels the obesity epidemic and is associated with other diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol disorders. Some types of liver disease include those related to alterations in the immune system and genetic disease. Cirrhosis, which is an advanced state of any liver disease, is managed by liver experts to include complications of bleeding, excessive body fluid or ascities, or alteration in brain function.
The hepatologist is trained to work with patients, families, and expert colleagues in multiple fields to prevent, diagnose, treat, and manage complications of liver disease.
Hepatitis C infection is a common disease treated in the clinic. The physician will confirm the diagnosis and determine other factors such as the severity of disease and candidacy for treatment.
A nurse specializing in hepatitis C treatment works with the physician and patients before, during and after treatment.
Increasingly, advances in medical therapy provide a cure for many hepatitis C patients. The hepatologist may also coordinate the diagnosis and management of a liver tumor with a multidisciplinary team. This may include radiologists, surgeons, oncologists, and transplant physicians.
When the liver fails, usually related to cirrhosis of any cause, the hepatologist facilitates referral and evaluation for liver transplantation if needed. Most types of liver disease have a specific treatment and management plan that is addressed in this clinic.