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Treating A Silent Epidemic With A Double Dose Of Technology

Chronic liver disease affects more than one billion people worldwide, but clinicians are now equipped with a new tool in the fight against the disease

Chronic liver disease affects more than one billion people worldwide, with rates of incidents and deaths on the rise. It can be caused by a virus, such as hepatitis B or C, by excessive alcohol consumption or by dietary habits, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Yet a virus like hepatitis C often lies undetected for 20 to 30 years, making it known as “the silent epidemic.” What’s more, chronic liver disease can even lead to life-threatening complications, such as liver cancer – one of the few cancers on the rise that causes 745,000 deaths annually.

“Usually patients with liver disease show no symptoms,” says Professor Ioan Sporea, Head of Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timisoara, Romania. “The person seems to be healthy but performing a biological test might find some liver problems.”

Until recently, the best tests to diagnose and assess liver disease severity were blood tests and painful liver biopsies, where a clinician inserts a small needle into the liver to collect a tissue sample.

But Professor Sporea and his colleagues have a partner in the fight against liver disease. FibroScan is a non-invasive technology developed by European company Echosens that helps assess and identify liver stiffness, a key indicator of liver disease. It provides a reliable and quantitative assessment of liver fibrosis and steatosis. It’s supported by more than 1,500 clinical publications and has been recommended in the guidelines of prominent clinical organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

GE Healthcare’s LOGIQ ultrasound system joined forces with Echosens’ FibroScan technology to offer one powerful imaging system[1]. Professor Sporea was one of the first clinicians to use the integrated ultrasound system and has been using the system with his patients since fall 2016.

LOGIQ is GE’s premier ultrasound system for a wide range of clinical uses. Paired with FibroScan, it gives clinicians a new tool to quickly and non-invasively diagnose liver disease, assess fibrosis stage in chronic liver disease, and monitor treatment like never before.

“It’s a one-stop-shop,” Professor Sporea says. “You have everything in a single machine. You can perform the examination with excellent quality. Now we can have the final diagnosis with only one machine, and we can know many things about liver disease.”

He says his patients appreciate the non-invasive, less painful procedures and faster evaluation. “I can evaluate the patient in only one step in 20 to 25 minutes,” he says. “Being able to finish a patient’s in one step, in one room is a big advantage.”

Professor Sporea notes that liver biopsies have decreased in the last decade throughout Europe and more clinicians are using multi-parameter ultrasound and elastography to diagnose liver disease. But he says the integrated ultrasound system takes detection and treatment one step further.

“This will transform the way I diagnose and decide to treat liver disease,” he says. “The liver biopsy in many, many cases can be avoided. Now we can know more about the severity of the fibrosis, we can quantify the disease’s severity, and then we know what treatment to administer.”

[1] This system may not be available in all regions.