Hepatology is the specialized field of medicine dedicated to the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders related to the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree, and pancreas. It plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health, as the liver is a vital organ responsible for numerous essential functions in the body. Let us learn more about common liver diseases, diagnostic methods, and treatment approaches.
Common Liver Diseases Treated By Hepatology Department
- Hepatitis: This term refers to inflammation of the liver and can be caused by viruses (such as hepatitis A, B, or C), medications, or excessive alcohol consumption. Chronic hepatitis can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer if left untreated.
- Cirrhosis: This advanced stage of scarring of the liver tissue is typically the result of long-term, continuous damage to the liver. It can be caused by various factors, including chronic alcohol abuse, viral hepatitis, or certain genetic conditions.
- Fatty Liver Disease: This condition occurs when excessive fat accumulates in liver cells. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, while alcoholic fatty liver disease results from excessive alcohol consumption.
- Liver Cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma): Liver cancer is a serious and often fatal condition. It can arise as a result of chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, or due to viral infections like hepatitis B or C.
- Gallstones and Biliary Tract Diseases: Conditions affecting the gallbladder and bile ducts, such as gallstones or biliary strictures, fall under hepatology. These can lead to pain, jaundice, and digestive problems.
- Autoimmune Liver Diseases: Conditions like autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis involve the immune system mistakenly attacking the liver, leading to inflammation and damage.
Key Procedures & Diagnostic Techniques
- Liver Biopsy: A procedure in which a small sample of liver tissue is collected, often using a needle, and examined under a microscope to diagnose liver diseases, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
- Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP): A specialized technique combining endoscopy and fluoroscopy to diagnose and treat conditions related to the bile ducts, gallbladder, and pancreas, including gallstones, strictures, and leaks.
- FibroScan (Transient Elastography): A non-invasive method that uses ultrasound technology to assess liver stiffness, which helps in evaluating liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.
- Paracentesis: A procedure to remove fluid that has accumulated in the abdominal cavity (ascites), often performed to relieve discomfort and to diagnose the underlying liver disease.
- Liver Function Tests (LFTs): Blood tests to assess the health of the liver by measuring levels of liver enzymes, proteins, and bilirubin.
- Cholangiography: Imaging of the bile ducts, which can be performed via MR (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, or MRCP) or through an endoscope (ERCP), to identify obstructions or abnormalities.
- Hepatic Venography and Pressure Measurement: An imaging test to measure the pressure in the hepatic veins and assess for conditions like portal hypertension.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) of Liver Tumors: A minimally invasive procedure where high-frequency radio waves are used to heat and destroy cancer cells in the liver.
- Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt (TIPS): A procedure to create a pathway (shunt) in the liver for blood flow, used to treat complications of liver cirrhosis like variceal bleeding and ascites.
- Hepatic Artery Embolization: A treatment for liver cancer that involves blocking the hepatic artery to stop blood flow to a liver tumor.
Advantages Of The Department
The Hepatology Department, specializing in the study and treatment of liver-related disorders, offers several key advantages for patients and the healthcare system as a whole:
- Expertise in Liver Disorders: The Hepatology Department is staffed with specialized hepatologists who have extensive training and experience in diagnosing and treating a wide range of liver conditions. Their expertise ensures that patients receive the highest level of care for their specific liver-related concerns.
- Comprehensive Care: The department provides comprehensive care for all types of liver diseases, including chronic conditions like hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease, as well as acute liver injuries. This holistic approach ensures that patients receive thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and appropriate treatment plans.
- Advanced Diagnostic Techniques: Hepatology departments are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and technologies specifically tailored for liver assessments. This includes advanced imaging techniques like ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI scans, as well as specialized tests for liver function and specific markers.
- Specialized Procedures: Hepatology departments often offer a range of specialized procedures such as liver biopsies, fibroscans for liver stiffness measurement, and advanced endoscopic techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of liver-related disorders. These procedures are performed by experienced hepatologists, ensuring precision and accuracy.
- Management of Complex Cases: The department is well-equipped to handle complex and challenging cases, including patients with advanced liver disease or those requiring liver transplant evaluations. The expertise of hepatologists in managing these cases ensures the best possible outcomes.
- Treatment Options: Hepatology departments offer a range of treatment options, including medications, lifestyle modifications, and, in severe cases, liver transplantation. The availability of diverse treatment modalities allows for personalized care plans tailored to each patient's unique condition and needs.
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