What is fatty liver disease?
The clinical term for fatty liver disease is hepatic steatosis and it means that you have extra fat in your liver. Fatty liver disease is connected to alcoholism but can occur in people who drink rarely, or not at all.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is quite common and affects people who are in their forties and fifties. Those who are obese or have type 2 diabetes are more at risk. Metabolic syndrome seems to play a part in these individuals as it has been found that fatty liver is more prevalent among those with excessive stomach fat, high blood pressure and high levels of bad cholesterol.
Fatty liver disease is not to be taken lightly. It can cause serious risks to your health, like scarring of the liver, liver cirrhosis and it may even cause liver cancer.
The following indicate advanced liver disease and liver failure which need urgent medical attention
• Distended abdomen
• Enlarged blood vessels
• Enlarged breasts in men
• Swelling of the spleen and pain
• Jaundiced eyes
• Reddish palms
These need to be prevented by timely diagnosis and treatment.
When is liver biopsy done?
Liver biopsy is done to check for fatty liver disease. When you consult a doctor because you are manifesting one or more of the above symptoms, you will be advised to do a few other tests before doing a liver biopsy. This could include going through your medical history, doing a physical examination, running blood tests and imaging tests.
After the physical examination, and blood and imaging tests, if the doctor suspects that you may be at risk for fatty liver disease, you may be asked to undergo a liver biopsy. It will help determine the severity of liver disease and will help the doctor formulate a treatment plan.
How is liver biopsy done?
During the procedure, the doctor will remove a small sample of liver tissue and send it to the lab for a biopsy. This can be done as an OPD procedure. There are different types of liver biopsy procedures.
Percutaneous liver biopsy – The doctor will insert a thin needle through the abdomen into the liver to remove a small piece of liver tissue.
Transjugular biopsy – The insertion is done using a vein in the neck to remove the tissue.
Laproscopic liver biopsy – A small abdominal incision is made to remove liver tissue with a needle.
After the liver tissue is sent to the laboratory, it will be examined by a pathologist to check for signs of disease and the extent of damage to the liver. You will get the results within a week.
Based on the findings of the pathologist, your doctor will decide on how severe the fatty liver disease is and discuss the treatment plan with you. The treatment plan could include lifestyle changes that could include a weight loss program with diet management and exercise. If the reason for the fatty liver disease is morbid obesity and if traditional lifestyle changes don’t work in reducing weight, bariatric surgery or other weight loss surgery options may be suggested.