Fatty liver disease, also known as hepatic steatosis, is a condition where excess fat builds up in the liver. It’s normal to have some fat in your liver, but if more than 5-10% of your liver’s weight is fat, then you may have fatty liver disease. The two main types are alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is more common and occurs in people who drink little to no alcohol.
Over time, NAFLD can lead to more serious liver problems like nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. That’s why early diagnosis and monitoring of fatty liver disease is so important. This is where FibroScan comes in. FibroScan is an imaging technique that uses vibrations and ultrasound waves to measure liver stiffness and fat content. It offers a non-invasive way to assess liver health and the extent of damage caused by fatty liver disease.
FibroScan, also called transient elastography, uses a technology called vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE). A probe generates mild vibrations that create shear waves that propagate through the liver tissue. At the same time, pulse-echo ultrasound tracks the propagation of the shear waves and measures their speed.
The speed of the shear waves corresponds to tissue stiffness – the stiffer the tissue, the faster the shear wave propagates. The harder the tissue, the more advanced the liver disease. FibroScan can provide two key measurements:
1. Liver stiffness measurement (LSM): Measured in kilopascals (kPa), LSM indicates the amount of liver fibrosis or scarring. Higher scores indicate stiffer liver tissue and more advanced disease.
2. Controlled attenuation parameter (CAP): Measured in decibels per meter (dB/m), CAP measures the degree of liver steatosis or fat content. Higher CAP scores indicate higher amounts of fat in the liver.
Compared to traditional methods like biopsy, FibroScan is completely non-invasive, painless, and provides immediate results. It has very high accuracy for detecting and staging fatty liver disease.
How Can FibroScan Help With Fatty Liver?
FibroScan allows doctors to diagnose fatty liver disease at very early stages, even before symptoms appear. It can identify individuals at risk of progressing to more advanced liver disease. FibroScan is also used to monitor disease progression and the effects of lifestyle changes and treatments over time. Key ways FibroScan helps manage fatty liver disease include:
- Diagnosis: FibroScan can reliably detect even mild levels of fatty liver (steatosis) based on the controlled attenuation parameter (CAP). This allows early diagnosis even before blood tests show liver enzyme changes.
- Staging: The liver stiffness measurement (LSM) can differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe liver fibrosis enabling accurate disease staging. This helps guide treatment and prognosis.
- Monitoring: Repeated FibroScan evaluations allow doctors to monitor fatty liver disease progression and reverse the effects of treatment and lifestyle modifications. Improvements in CAP and LSM values indicate a positive response.
- Prognosis: FibroScan results give doctors important information about prognosis. Higher LSM and CAP values indicate an increased risk of developing cirrhosis and liver-related complications. Patients with worsening scores may need more aggressive treatment.
- Screening: FibroScan can be used to screen high-risk groups for early signs of NAFLD even without symptoms. This includes people with obesity, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome. Early detection improves outcomes.
Overall, FibroScan is a reliable, non-invasive tool that enables better clinical management of patients with fatty liver disease – from diagnosis to treatment to monitoring.
How Is FibroScan Performed?
Getting a FibroScan is a simple, quick, and painless procedure. It’s performed at a doctor’s clinic or ultrasound lab by a trained technician. You simply lie on your back with your right arm raised behind your head. The technician then applies gel to the right side of your chest and ribs. The FibroScan probe is pressed gently on the skin to obtain measurements at various locations.
The probe generates mild vibrations and ultrasound waves which obtain at least 10 valid LSM and CAP measurements each. The entire procedure takes only 5-10 minutes. No hospitalization or recovery time is required. You can drive yourself home and resume normal activities right after.
To ensure accuracy, the procedure follows certain protocols:
- Fasting: At least 2 hours of fasting is required prior to the scan as food intake can affect results.
- Location: Measurements are taken at specific locations on the right lobe of the liver as this area represents the entire liver.
- Success rate: A success rate of over 60% and an interquartile range under 30% for LSM indicates reliable, quality results.
- Skin thickness: Obese patients with thick skin may need an XL or XXL probe to obtain adequate measurements.
The latest FibroScan models like the 502 Touch provide instant on-screen results. But your doctor will perform further analysis and explain the findings at a follow-up visit. The test may need to be repeated at periodic intervals to monitor liver health over time.
In conclusion, FibroScan is an innovative non-invasive technology that utilizes vibrations and ultrasound to evaluate liver stiffness and fat content. It offers a quick, painless way to screen for and monitor fatty liver disease. FibroScan allows early diagnosis before symptoms or liver enzyme changes appear. It can accurately stage liver fibrosis and quantify fat accumulation.
This helps guide prognosis and treatment decisions. Periodic FibroScan tests allow doctors to monitor disease progression and treatment effectiveness over the long term. By enabling early detection and better clinical management of fatty liver disease, FibroScan can greatly improve patient outcomes and prevent progression to advanced liver disease.
A: No, FibroScan is completely painless. It’s performed by gently pressing a probe against the skin over the liver area. The mild vibrations and ultrasound waves used are not felt at all.
A: The actual scanning process takes only about 5-10 minutes. No preparation is required other than fasting for at least 2 hours before the scan.
A: There are two key numbers – liver stiffness measurement (LSM) in kilopascals (kPa) and controlled attenuation parameter (CAP) in decibels per meter (dB/m). Higher LSM indicates stiffer liver tissue and more advanced fibrosis. Higher CAP indicates more fat content in the liver.
A: In most cases, yes. FibroScan is comparably accurate to biopsy for diagnosing and staging fatty liver disease. However, in some cases with unclear or borderline FibroScan results, a biopsy may still be recommended.
A: If you have fatty liver disease, your doctor may recommend FibroScan evaluations every 1-2 years to monitor your condition. More frequent testing every 3-6 months may be advised if you have advanced liver fibrosis or are receiving treatment.