Tests to Diagnose Fatty Liver

Methods to Diagnose Fatty Liver

Every human body has a certain limit in regards to the amount of dietary fats it can process.  As and when fat consumption exceeds, it begins to accumulate in the liver cells, making this organ open to disease development or even irreversible damage.

Fatty liver is a condition marked by a gradual buildup of fat in the liver.  The human liver is an organ that aids in metabolizing dietary fats consumed by an individual.  When this consumption goes beyond a limit that the body can handle, the fat begins to get stored in the fatty tissues present in liver.

The liver, when it reaches a point where it becomes entirely coated with simple fats, develops a yellow discoloration, becomes a little heavier, and it is at this stage that the individual will begin to register a discomfort around the area where the liver is situated.  At times, a sense of tiredness, weakness, fatigue or malaise may also become evident.

When a physician is approached to identify the cause of this discomfort, and if liver problems are suspected after obtaining a complete history from the person, then the following diagnostic tests are normally followed.

Liver function tests – Blood samples are drawn from the individual to detect the levels of total bilirubin, bile pigment, in blood.  Total protein and enzymes like – alanine aminotransferase/aspartate aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, gamma glutamyl transpeptidase levels are also checked for.  These enzymes, under normal conditions, will not be present in the blood and are only detected when liver problems occur.  If either of the enzymes is detected or the bilirubin and protein levels are abnormal, then further investigations are usually carried out.

Imaging tests

Initially, a non-invasive testing method is usually performed to confirm the presence of fatty liver.  A computed tomography or ultrasound scanning method may aid in identifying this liver problem.  On CT scanning, the organ will appear less dense than it normally should; and on ultrasound imaging, the organ will appear brighter than normal, with fat layers depicted in a wave-like pattern.

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Magnetic resonance elastography is a method followed to determine the stiffness of the organ, a change consistent with fatty liver disease.  The standard magnetic resonance imaging equipment is used for this accompanied by a small vibrating pad (elastogram), that is placed on the surface of the individual’s body.  The radio waves move at a varied rate when passed through soft and hard organ tissues and this is recorded by the elastogram.  The method requires minimal amount of processing time and normally reveals accurate results.  The information got from this diagnostic method will help in early treatment and recovery of the individual.

Liver biopsy is an invasive and usually painful method performed when all other diagnostic methods fail to provide convincing results.  The biopsy site is first confirmed on imaging tests.  Before conducting the biopsy, standard blood tests and a complete history and physical examination will be performed to rule out any risks or complications that can occur from this.  When the individual is deemed fit, then medicines may be administered intravenously to calm the individual as well as to minimize the pain.  The biopsy needle is then passed and liver tissues drawn for microscopic examinations.

The diagnosis and plan of treatment will be discussed by the physician once the results are obtained.