The UPMC Fatty Liver Clinic
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a disorder in which fat builds up in the liver. The condition is similar to liver disease caused by excessive drinking, but NAFLD occurs in people who do not consume a significant amount of alcohol.
For some people, liver fat causes inflammation and scarring, a condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). When the liver is swollen, it does not work properly. If NASH is left untreated, it could lead to cirrhosis, a serious condition in which healthy tissue in the liver is replaced with scar tissue, and can lead to:
- Organ failure
- Liver cancer
- Other complications throughout the body
At the UPMC Fatty Liver Clinic, our physicians work with our patients to help manage their symptoms and improve their condition. Our liver specialists partner with physicians in endocrinology, cardiology, bariatrics, and transplant to ensure patients receive quality and personalized care.
Conditions We Treat
People who are at high risk for NASH typically suffer from one or more of the following:
- Obesity and overweight
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic Syndrome
However, NASH can occur in people who do not have any of these risk factors.
Symptoms and Signs of NAFLD
Some patients with NAFLD may have no symptoms at all, even in late stages of the disease. However, some patients have nonspecific symptoms and should be aware of warning signs such as:
- Achiness in the upper right abdomen
- Mild elevation of liver enzymes
Patients with NAFLD who progress to cirrhosis can develop:
- Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract
- Liver cancer
- Fluid overload
- Confusion and cognitive changes
- Kidney failure
At the UPMC Fatty Liver Clinic, our liver specialists utilize state-of-the-art diagnostics to discover fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver can be detected by abdominal scans, such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI scan. Scarring in the liver can be detected by noninvasive means such as blood tests, or with examinations used to assess liver stiffness, such as Fibroscan or MR elastography.
However, a liver biopsy is sometimes needed to determine the degree of liver inflammation and confirm how much scarring has already occurred.
Treatments for NAFLD and NASH include:
- Managing weight with diet changes and exercise
- Restricting calories and fructose intake
- Administering medical therapy to treat inflammation and NAFLD-associated metabolic disorders
If weight loss cannot be achieved through diet and exercise alone, surgical procedures, such as gastric bypass, may be recommended for carefully selected patients.
If there is too much damage from NASH, leading to liver failure, a liver transplant becomes necessary. Fortunately, the UPMC Liver Transplant Program, part of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, is one of the oldest and largest transplantation programs in the United States with decades of experience providing life-saving treatments to patients with liver disease.