Hepatology is a medical specialty focused on diseases and conditions of the liver and biliary tract (gallbladder and ducts). It is closely associated with gastroenterology as the liver plays a crucial role in digestion and metabolism. Hepatology doctors perform a wide array of high-tech GI procedures to diagnose, treat, and cure liver dysfunction.
Let’s discuss some common hepatology procedures performed at your California digestive health center.
What Can Go Wrong with the Liver?
The liver is a complex and essential body organ. In fact, while you may be able to live well without the gallbladder attached to the liver, which stores bile, you cannot live without a healthy liver.
Unfortunately, about one in 10 adults in the United States suffers from some type of liver diseases. Some liver problems stem from heredity/autoimmune issues and communicable viruses. Others are toxin-related, like alcoholic liver diseases.
Some of the health issues associated with an ailing or failing liver are:
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), often a result of alcohol abuse
- Non-fatty liver disease
- Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, contagious infections of the liver
- Liver cysts
- Liver cancer and duct cancer
For many people, liver disease can be avoided with weight control, exercise, lower alcohol consumption, and a diet low in fatty red meats and high-fructose corn syrup. However, others may need medications and interventions to normalize their liver function.
General Hepatology Procedures
Your PCP and CA digestive health specialist use simple blood tests to evaluate the liver’s health and function. These tests measure liver enzymes, bilirubin, ALT, AST, etc. High levels indicate some degree of liver infection, damage, and dysfunction.
Additionally, general hepatology procedures include:
- Sophisticated imaging, such as CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET scans, and ultrasonography
- Fibroscans (elastography) to locate and evaluate scar tissue in the liver
- Liver biopsy, which uses a needle inserted through the abdomen to sample and analyze the tissue for the presence of cancer
- HIDA nuclear scans (cholescintigraphy), which involve the injection of radioactive material into a vein to camera-track and assess bile production
- Endoscopy, insertion of a small lighted tube to video-evaluate the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts (may or may not involve the injection of a contrast dye to improve structure visualization)
Many of these procedures successfully evaluate people with end-stage liver failure, and whose only option is liver transplantation from a live or cadaver donor.
Hepatology Services at inSite Digestive Care in California
Your hepatologist Dr. Thomas V. Aguirre, at inSite Digestive Health, has extensive experience in health problems associated with the digestive tract, specifically the liver and its associated structures. If your PCP wishes you to see a liver specialist, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Aguirre for an appointment at our Santa Barbara office by calling (805) 682-3585. He is pleased to offer his patients convenient telehealth visits.