New scanner detects liver disease

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A new tool to detecting one of the fastest growing diseases likely linked to obesity is now being used in Connecticut.

Doctors at Hartford Hospital are using FibroScan technology to help manage the increasing number of Fatty Liver Disease – which is similar to alcoholic liver disease.

Fatty Liver Disease though, occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. They’re detecting it in more patients, likely due to more people with obesity. Now there’s a new way to scan the liver for it.

“I hadn’t been to a doctor approximately 25 years,” said Stuart Nolan, who is in for a follow up visit and is getting the scan. He is now seeing a fair amount of doctors after getting a serious scare.

“I am not a sickly person and I always felt well and I just, it was terrible, it knocked me down for three days,” Nolan said.

That led to the discovery Nolan has a fatty liver.

“Fatty liver disease is becoming the most common liver disease that we see,” said Dr. Michael Einstein. In part, he says, it’s due to obesity.

Dr. Einstein monitors what’s going on in Nolan’s liver with a hand held scanner. The diagnostic tool confirmed the diagnosis after it scanned for scar tissue.

“Unlike a liver biopsy which takes a little sample, this samples a larger piece of the liver,” Dr. Einstein explained.

It uses ultrasound technology, covering a bigger area and providing more information. There’s a one-two punch of energy waves then instant results.

“The faster the sound wave moves through the more scar tissue and disease there is in the liver,” Dr. Einstein said.

It’s a non-invasive option. It allows some patients to avoid the more uncomfortable biopsy.

“If I do this and their labs, their Fibroscans all looks normal, I’m not concerned there is significant scar tissue, I won’t biopsy them,” Dr. Einstein said.

Unfortunately for Nolan, he still needed the biopsy. “I feel better knowing what’s going on with me,” he said.

In his case, the fatty buildup in his liver led to an inflammation of the cells and the scarring.

“Between his biopsy, Fibroscan and labs, I’m going to treat him as though he has cirrhosis,” Dr. Einstein said, “and I’ll do periodic imaging of his liver to make sure he doesn’t have cancer.”

Dr. Einstein says the best way to avoid the fatty liver disease is to manage the risk factors. That includes, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and weight loss.

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