Mercy’s Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease Now Offers FibroScan - New, ‘No-Needle’ Option for Liver Disease Testing
Approximately 30 million Americans – about 1 out of 10 – have some form of liver disease, according to the American Liver Foundation. With a rising obesity rate in the United States, the incidence of liver disease is expected to increase accordingly. Mercy Medical Center continues to take a leadership role in the battle against liver disease by providing patients with a FibroScan -- a new painless and non-invasive technique to assess liver stiffness which can indicated fibrosis, or scarring.
“With FibroScan, the results are immediate. It shows the condition of the liver and allows physicians to diagnose and monitor disease. It’s truly a breakthrough in treating patients with liver disease, particularly viral hepatitis,” said Dr. Paul J. Thuluvath, Medical Director, The Melissa L Posner Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease at Mercy.
According to Dr. Thuluvath, FibroScan uses a technology called vibration-controlled transient elastography. “It works much like an ultrasound in that it uses sound waves to measure the degree of scarring that’s present in the liver as a result of an underlying disease. This scarring replaces living liver tissue, and can lead to cirrhosis, cancer and liver failure,” Dr. Thuluvath said.
FibroScan uses an ultrasound probe which emits a pulse at the skin’s surface, measuring the liver’s condition through sound waves. A computer, which displays a 2-dimension view of the liver, analyzes the data. “The level of scarring, or fibrosis, is measured in relation to the liver’s stiffness. The harder the liver, the more serious the fibrosis is most likely to be,” Dr. Thuluvath explained.
Until now, the gold standard in terms of testing for fibrosis was to perform a core needle biopsy of the liver, typically with ultrasound or CT scan. Core needle biopsy may entail a risk for complications such as bleeding, puncture of adjacent organs, as well as pain and discomfort. FibroScan offers a viable alternative for a fraction of the cost of a liver biopsy or a specialized blood test, producing a valid, accurate determination of liver fibrosis. This noninvasive test, which is reimbursable through most insurance plans, is especially important as the number of Americans diagnosed with hepatitis C increases.
A FibroScan examination typically takes 10 minutes or less, during which the patient will:
- Lie prone back with the right arm raised behind the head
- Gel applied to skin by a clinician
- FibroScan probe placed on the chest
- Degree of liver fibrosis measured
The test results are immediate, and the test can be repeatedly utilized as needed.
Hepatitis C, one of the forms of viral hepatitis along with hepatitis A and B, is estimated to affect around 150 million people worldwide. It is spread through the blood or bodily fluids of an affected individual. New oral medications are available that cure hepatitis C in almost 100 percent of patients with only very mild side effects for the 12- to 24-week course of treatment. The “Baby Boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1964, are believed to be at highest risk for Hepatitis C.
For more information about FibroScan and the latest treatments for Hepatitis C, contact The Melissa L. Posner Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy Medical Center, at 301 St. Paul Place, 410-332-9592. With physicians among the best GI doctors and surgeons in Baltimore and the Mid-Atlantic region, The Institute offers patients comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and care.
Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on Facebook, Twitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.