What Is Hepatology? What Are The Procedures Involved?

What Is Hepatology?

Hepatology is a specialized branch of medicine that deals and focuses on the study of liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and biliary tree. Some of the conditions hepatologists deal with are alcohol-related liver disease and viral hepatitis. Additionally, hepatology is considered as a sub-specialty of gastroenterology that focuses on the entire digestive system.

One of the main reasons for consulting or meeting a certified hepatologist is due to hepatitis. Hepatologists also treat other diseases such as liver cancers, pancreatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis, and liver affected due to a drug overdose.

The qualification required for practicing in hepatology are Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.).

What Are The Diseases Covered Under The Branch Of Hepatology:

  • Drug overdose: One of the common conditions is paracetamol overdose.
  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal region from portal hypertension related to liver damage.
  • Abnormalities found in blood test which suggests possible liver disease.
  • Storage disease of the liver: Enzyme defects leading to the bigger liver in children.
  • Positive results of Jaundice or Hepatitis virus in blood perhaps discovered on screening blood tests.
  • Ascites or swelling of the abdomen from fluid accumulation that occurs commonly due to liver disease, and in some cases, can be due to other conditions such as heart failure.
  • Patients with advanced liver diseases like cirrhosis should be treated under extensive and specialist care.
  • To undergo ERCP for diagnosing diseases of biliary tree or their management.
  • Fever with other features that suggest infections involving mentioned organs. Some exotic tropical diseases like schistosomiasis, hydatid cyst, or kala-azar may be suspected. There is a possibility of involving microbiologists as well.
  • Systemic diseases affecting the liver and biliary tree, e.g. hemochromatosis
  • Follow up of a liver transplant.
  • Pancreatitis that occurs commonly due to alcohol or gallstone.
  • Cancer

Test Procedures:

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography(ERCP): This procedure is used to diagnose and treat many pancreatic and biliary diseases. Some of the reasons for which ERCP is performed is for weight loss, jaundice (yellow fever), abdominal pain, or when an ultrasound or CT scan shows a mass or presence of stones in these organs. Refer the Hepatology journal for the detailed procedure.

Transhepatic pancreatic-cholangiography(PTC): An x-ray is used in this test procedure that helps detect obstructions in the liver or bile ducts. This test can differentiate between cancer and bile duct structures that are caused by inflammation due to stones or other conditions.  

Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt(TIPS): It is an artificial channel that is made to create a connection between the hepatic and portal veins. This procedure is followed by taking the help of an imaging device. For patients with cirrhosis, this test is successful in reducing internal bleeding in the esophagus and stomach. Read the Fractal journal.

Liver Transplant and Pancreas Transplant: Liver transplant is a process that involves taking a part or the entire liver from a healthy (donor) person and placing it in a diseased person’s body. Similarly, a pancreas transplant is the same that involves replacing diseased pancreas with a healthy one.  

Liver Diseases:

Liver diseases are caused due to various reasons like viruses, consumption of alcohol, inheritance, and obesity as well. Severe damage to the liver can lead to cirrhosis or scarring which causes liver failure. Some of the symptoms of liver diseases are:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Swelling in legs and ankles
  • Dark urine color
  • Yellowness in skin and eyes (yellow fever)
  • Itchy skin
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Easy bruisings
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pale, tar, or blood-colored stool

Risk Factors Involved:

  • Heavy consumption of alcohol
  • Tattoos or body piercings
  • Unprotected sex
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Blood transfusion
  • Injecting drugs using shared needles or reuse of same syringes for injection
  • Exposure to specific chemicals or toxins
  • Exposure to body fluids of other people



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