Together we can find cures for chronic diseases
Chronic liver disease is the silent killer that no one knows about. It lurks in the background – quietly, patiently, until it is too late.
Chronic liver disease is a group of liver disorders that ultimately lead to irreversible damage of the liver, known as cirrhosis. Whilst cirrhosis is commonly linked with excess alcohol consumption, many other conditions such as non-alcoholic liver disease and infection of the liver (chronic viral hepatitis), can also lead to cirrhosis.
Typically, cirrhosis takes years to develop. In the early stages there are no symptoms and early warning is only possible with a blood test. Furthermore, definitive diagnosis can be difficult, at times requiring a liver biopsy which is very painful and invasive. Cirrhosis can affect young adults right through to the elderly.
The complications of cirrhosis are significant; chronic liver failure, primary liver cancer (hepatocellular cancer) and ultimately, death.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in Australia. The most common causes of NAFLD are obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. In Australia, an estimated two-thirds of the population are above their ideal weight, with this figure predicted to rise. Obesity is a growing epidemic, and many don’t link these risk factors back to NAFLD.
Whilst it’s difficult to know the true extent of NAFLD, it is estimated that 40% of people aged over 50 has the condition. This represents 5 ½ million Australians that suffer from this disease. Most distressing is that similar to all other chronic liver diseases, there are no physical symptoms until it is too late.
Innovative research is being conducted at the Liver Clinical Trials Unit at the RAH, allowing all South Australians access to cutting edge treatments that potentially will halt and reverse the damage done by this silent killer.
Eight years ago, the RAH purchased the first Fibroscan® in South Australia. Fibroscan® is an ultrasound shear wave technology that assesses the total damage to the liver in the lifetime of a patient. The scan takes less than 10 minutes to perform and is painless and can be conducted in a clinical setting.
Advancement in Fibroscan® technology now allows doctors to confirm the diagnosis of NAFLD, as well as measure the damage to the liver without the need for a liver biopsy in most cases.
The RAH urgently needs to raise funds to purchase this revolutionary piece of equipment.
The new technology will lead to faster diagnosis of liver disease, less invasive treatment options, and has the potential to enable our researchers to continue to find a cure for this shocking disease.