A hepatologist is a specialist in the branch of medicine called Hepatology, which includes the study of body parts such as the liver, the biliary tree, the gallbladder and the pancreas. A hepatologist manages disorders in these areas. Hepatology was traditionally a subspecialty of gastroenterology, but recent advances in the understanding of this subspecialty have made it a field of its own.
Hepatologists deal most frequently with viral hepatitis and diseases related to alcohol. Hepatitis impacts millions of people worldwide and has been associated with a number of poor outcomes such as liver cancer and liver transplantation. Particularly, hepatitis B and hepatitis C frequently cause liver cancers. Alcohol consumption has been associated with cirrhosis and other complications.
A general practitioner may refer a patient to a hepatologist for a variety of reasons including drug overdose, gastrointestinal bleeding from portal hypertension, jaundice, ascites, enzyme defects or blood tests that indicate liver disease. Evidence of diseases in the biliary tree, fever indicating tropical diseases such as hydatid cyst, kala-azar or schistosomiasis may also cause a general practitioner to refer a patient to a hepatologist. These specialists also may treat hemochromatosis or pancreatitis or conduct follow-up among patients who have received a liver transplantation.
Some of the procedures performed by hepatologists include endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), transhepatic pancreato-cholangiography (TPC) or transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPSS).
Hepatologists can treat adult or pediatric patients.
The liver is an essential organ that has many functions in the body, including making proteins and blood clotting factors, manufacturing triglycerides and cholesterol, glycogen synthesis, and bile production.
The liver is a large organ that sits on the right hand side of the belly.
The liver is the body's largest internal organ.
Many different disease processes can occur in the liver, including infections such as hepatitis, cirrhosis (scarring), cancers, and damage by medications or toxins.
Alcohol can be toxic to the liver (hepatotoxic), especially in high doses, and long-term alcohol abuse is a common cause of liver disease.
The liver is involved in metabolizing many toxins, including drugs and medications, chemicals, and natural substances.
The liver is one of the vital organs of the body, responsible for hundreds of chemical actions that the body needs to survive. It is also a gland because it secretes chemicals that are used by other parts of the body. For these reasons the liver is both an organ and a gland; in fact, it is the largest internal organ in the body.
The liver has multiple functions. It makes many of the chemicals required by the body to function normally, it breaks down and detoxifies substances in the body, and it also acts as a storage unit.
Hepatocytes (hepar=liver + cyte=cell) are responsible for making many of the proteins (protein synthesis) in the body that are required for many functions, including blood clotting factors, and albumin, required to maintain fluid within the circulation system. The liver is also responsible for manufacturing cholesterol and triglycerides. Carbohydrates are also produced in the liver and the organ is responsible for turning glucose into glycogen that can be stored both in the liver and in the muscle cells. The liver also makes bile that helps with food digestion.
The liver plays an important role in detoxifying the body by converting ammonia, a byproduct of metabolism in the body, into urea that is excreted in the urine by the kidneys. The liver also breaks down medications and drugs, including alcohol, and is responsible for breaking down insulin and other hormones in the body.
The liver is also stores vitamins and chemicals that the body requires as building blocks. These includes:
The liver is a large organ and a significant amount of liver tissue needs to be damaged before a person experiences symptoms of disease. Symptoms also may depend upon the type of liver disease.
The liver is the largest internal organ of the body and is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and is protected by the lower right ribs. It also extends across the midline toward the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. Should it become enlarged, the liver will grow further across the upper abdomen and down towards the navel (umbilicus).
The liver is divided into two lobes and has a rich blood supply obtained from two sources; 1) the portal vein delivers blood from the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestine, colon) and spleen, and 2) the hepatic artery supplies blood from the heart.
The biliary tree describes a system of tubes that collect bile, used to help digest food, and drains it into the gallbladder or the intestine. Intrahepatic ducts are located inside the liver (intra=inside + hepar=liver) while extrahepatic ducts are located outside the liver.
Many diseases may affect the liver directly or as a consequence of an illness or disease that begins in another organ.
Fatty liver disease, caused by accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides within the liver is not associated with alcohol abuse. Fatty liver disease is also referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Cirrhosis of the liver describes a condition of scarring in the liver that is not reversible and may lead to liver failure.
Alcohol abuse causes cirrhosis of the liver and is the most common cause of liver disease in North America.
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver that causes liver inflammation.
Infections may affect the liver, including:
Liver inflammation is a relatively common side effect of medications. Some commonly prescribed medications include the following:
Genetic disorders can affect the liver, examples include the following:
Abnormalities of bile flow from the liver may lead to liver inflammation, for example:
Decrease in blood flow draining out of the liver may cause the liver to become congested and inflamed, two examples include:
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which the heart is not strong enough to pump all of the blood it receives, and that blood can back up into the liver.
Budd Chiari syndrome is a disease in which blood clots form in the hepatic veins, preventing blood from leaving the liver.
The liver is located in the abdomen but the health care professional will want to examine the whole body to look for the consequences of liver disease.