Digital scanning technology halves need for liver biopsies

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Researches from the University of Birmingham and University of Edinburgh have cut the number of liver biopsies performed on patients with fatty liver in half by using a non-invasive digital image scan. Findings were published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

In this study, researchers examined the feasibility and accuracy of the LiverMultiScan non-invasive digital imaging system in identifying patients with fatty liver disease and eliminating the need for liver biopsies.

"It is clear that there is a rising burden of liver disease, particularly from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Our study is of importance to evaluating the best pathways to offer patients who need evaluation of their liver health,” said Gideon Hirschfield, with the University of Birmingham. "Whilst liver biopsy remains an important part of advanced Hepatology practice, clearly we need better non-invasive tools at our disposal to evaluate the nature and severity of liver disease.

A total of 50 patients and six volunteers received digital image scanning. Results were then processed by clinical imaging specialists. Results showed the LiverMultiScan was more effective in grading disease severity and excluding patients at increased risk of disease progression than other tests. In conclusion, researchers noted that 458 of every 1,000 liver biopsies could be avoided by utilizing the digital scan and save around $200,000 per 1,000 patients.

"Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is on the increase - the prevalence is estimated at around 20-30% in the UK,” said Philip Newsome, director of the University of Birmingham's Centre for Liver Research. "As numbers are expected to grow, this will undoubtedly have a major impact on the nation's health, and will place a significant demand on NHS resources. The rising burden of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease calls for simpler and low risk strategies to manage this clinical problem that meet the needs of both clinicians and patients."