Hepatology is an area of medicine that focuses on diseases of the liver as well as related conditions. Hepatitis affects millions of individuals globally and is associated with several poor outcomes including liver transplant and liver cancer. In particular, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are major causes of liver cancer, while alcohol abuse has been linked to conditions such as cirrhosis and other serious complications.
Over two billion individuals have been infected with hepatitis B at some point and around 350 million people are persistent carriers. With widespread vaccination and blood screening, the incidence of hepatitis B has significantly decreased. However, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are accountable for up to 80% of liver cancer cases.
In addition to these types of hepatitis, the primary conditions encountered by hepatologists deal include viral hepatitis and alcohol-related liver disease.
A hepatologist generally only assesses patients after they are referred by their doctor. A hepatologist may also be involved in the follow-up of patients who have received a liver transplant.
Some of the procedures hepatologists are required to perform include:
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, which is used to diagnose and treat many biliary and pancreatic diseases.
Transhepatic pancreato-cholangiography, which is a form of X-ray imaging that is used to detect any obstructions present in the bile ducts or liver.
Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, which is an artificial channel that is made to create a connection between the portal and hepatic veins.