The liver is one of the most important organs in the body because it processes everything we consume and filters harmful substances from the blood. Some fat in the liver is normal, but when fat content is more than 5 to 10 percent of liver weight, it is classified as fatty liver. Fatty liver affects 10 to 20 percent of our population, and that number is increasing due to the rapidly rising rate of obesity and diabetes. The most common cause of fatty liver is heavy drinking and alcoholism. When alcohol is not a contributing factor, physicians look to other reasons for fatty liver.
How To Improve Liver Health
- Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Control your blood sugar.
- Manage your cholesterol.
- Eat a healthy diet consisting of fewer fatty foods, less sugar, less red meat, and more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Stages Of Liver Damage
Fatty liver usually has no apparent symptoms, but excessive fat in the liver can interfere with liver function and lead to liver inflammation, causing poor appetite, abdominal discomfort or pain, weakness, fatigue, and confusion. Ongoing, repeated damage to the liver leads to accumulation of scar tissue (liver fibrosis) and then to cirrhosis (permanent scarring).
Diagnosing Liver Disease: New Technology Tracks Liver Hardness And Fat Content
Several tests may be performed to detect issues with the liver: physical examination by a physician, blood tests to check for elevated liver enzymes, imaging studies (ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI), and liver biopsy. While some of these tests may confirm a fatty liver, they do not monitor progression of liver inflammation or damage to the liver.
When a liver is compromised, it is important to track both the hardness of the liver and the level of fat present in the liver. FibroScan® is the tradename for an ultrasound examination that specifically assesses liver hardness and stiffness (fibrosis) and level of fat (steatosis). This noninvasive exam uses technology called Vibration-Controlled Transient Elastrophy (VCTE) to measure liver fibrosis and Controlled Attenuation Parameter (CAP) to assess and quantify steatosis.
With VCTE, an ultrasound probe emits a mechanical pulse at the surface of the skin to measure the condition of the liver through sound waves. The computer displays a two-dimensional picture of the liver and analyzes the data from at least ten separate readings taken of the liver. An immediate measurement of the hardness of the liver, using a range from 1.5 to 75 kPa correlated to fibrosis, is given to the physician. The harder the liver, the more serious the fibrosis is likely to be. Cirrhosis becomes a concern at 12 kPa.
CAP is currently the only noninvasive means to assess and quantify fat in the liver (steatosis). Prior to the development of CAP, conventional ultrasound was the only way to detect the presence of steatosis, and quantification was not even possible. CAP is calculated only if the liver hardness measurement is valid. The final CAP result is the median of at least ten valid CAP measurements. CAP and VCTE are performed simultaneously in the same liver volume and do not extend the duration of the test.
FibroScan® is easy, painless, and quick, taking less than ten minutes. It and assists in diagnosing and monitoring the progression of liver disease. When close follow-up is needed, the exam may be safely repeated every 6-12 months. This follow-up helps monitor the progression of liver disease and, if treatment or lifestyle changes has taken place, helps to determine how successful those measures have been.