Friday, December 8

What you need to know about the diagnosis

Patients who come to the emergency department with abdominal pain often get an ultrasound as part of their diagnostic workup – especially if the pain is localized to the right upper abdomen. This is done to evaluate for emergency causes of the pain, particularly if the source is related to the liver or gall bladder.

With increasing frequency over the years, I’ve seen ultrasound results demonstrating “fatty liver” in patients. In the absence of chronic alcohol abuse, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects between 80 and 100 million Americans. That adds up to about one-third of adults. And despite its name, one-third of those diagnosed with fatty liver disease are not obese.

Know before you go:The dos and don’ts of going to the ER

Where do those fatty deposits come from?

NAFLD is actually a spectrum of liver disease that includes fatty liver, which occurs when there is an excess of fat deposits in the liver. When fatty liver is accompanied by progressive inflammation and fibrosis, this is referred to as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). If NASH is allowed to progress, it could result in cirrhosis, a permanent scarring that leads to liver failure.

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