Liver fibrosis occurs when your liver becomes full of scar tissue due to diseases such as Hepatitis C or fatty liver, and it is important to know the level of steatosis and fibrosis that has occurred to properly treat these diseases. For many years, patients have needed to undergo an invasive surgical liver biopsy to determine their level of liver fibrosis. Fortunately, with modern technology called Fibroscan, invasive biopsies are no longer necessary and simple sound waves can be used to determine the level of fibrosis. Dr. Alexander Shapsis in Brooklyn, NY uses this knife-free, painless procedure to provide the best treatment for his patients.
How the Fibroscan test works
The Fibroscan liver test works by placing a sensor on top of your skin where your liver is located. The sensor transmits low frequency sound waves called “shear waves” through your liver and then determines how fast the sound travels, which is also known as liver elastography. This measurement is then translated into a Fibroscan score that the doctor can use to understand the level of fibrosis, or stiffness, of your liver. The more scarring your liver has, the less elastic it will be.
Fibroscan is not a replacement for a conventional liver ultrasound, so your doctor may also recommend that a liver ultrasound be performed to assess your liver’s structure and overall health.
What to expect during a Fibroscan test
When you are undergoing the procedure, you will not feel any pain. Some patients say that they feel a “flicking” sensation when the vibration waves are passed through the probe, but it is not uncomfortable. The whole procedure usually takes around 10 minutes. Typically, the only preparation that you need to do in advance is to refrain from eating or drinking for two hours before the procedure, but the doctor will provide you with all of the information and instructions that you need to be ready for the test. Eating a large meal before the test may cause your results to show that you have a higher level of fibrosis than you actually do.
After the test, your results will be immediately available, so you don’t have to wait for days or weeks for your results.
Interpreting the result
As cirrhosis progresses and your liver becomes less elastic, it loses more and more of its ability to function. Your Fibroscan score for fatty liver disease, Hepatitis, or other liver diseases will be a number from 2.5 to 12.5 or above. These numeric scores are then translated to a liver fibrosis rating, which will be anywhere from F0 to F4. Lower numbers indicate healthier livers for both your Fibroscan results and your liver fibrosis rating. An example interpretation of your Fibroscan score is below.
Fibroscan score ranges:
- 2.5 – 7.4 = Fibrosis rating F0 or F1, which indicates no or mild fibrosis with no evidence of progressive liver disease
- 7.5 – 9.4 = Fibrosis rating F2, which indicates moderate fibrosis with evidence of progressive liver disease
- 9.5 – 12.4 = Fibrosis rating F3, which indicates severe fibrosis and high risk of progression to cirrhosis
- 12.5 or higher = Fibrosis rating F4, which indicates extensive fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver
Determining if you are a good candidate for Fibroscan
The Fibroscan test can be used to determine the level of scarring in your liver due to a number of liver diseases, including:
- Hepatitis B or C
- Chronic liver disease
- Fatty liver
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
- Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
- Autoimmune Hepatitis
- Wilson’s disease
Studies have shown that Fibroscan is highly accurate and serves as a good tool to determine the level of fibrosis for most patients with chronic liver diseases. It can be used for an initial screening to determine how much liver damage you have, as well as to monitor the progression of disease over time.
Certain conditions such as active inflammation, obstructions, lesions or tumors, or congestion in their liver can result in scores that are artificially high, and patients who are obese, older, have metabolic syndrome, or have ascites may have less reliable results. In some cases, a follow-up biopsy may need to be performed depending on the results of the Fibroscan test, but for most patients, this non-invasive procedure is sufficient and a biopsy is not necessary.
FibroScan – The Consistent, Painless Approach to Liver Management
Atlantic Gastroenterology now offers FibroScan®, an accurate, non-invasive, painless aid for managing patients with liver disease. FibroScan is FDA-approved for clinical management of patients with liver disease and is covered by most insurance carriers.
FibroScan works by emitting a pulse of energy, which you may feel as a slight vibration on your skin. FibroScan then measures the speed of this energy and immediately provides this information to your physician, who then uses it as part of a broader evaluation of your liver health.
FibroScan offers many benefits:
- Consistent results
- The examined area is 100x the size of a needle biopsy
- Covered by most insurance plans
- The procedure is painless and takes about 10 minutes
Dr. Alexander Shapsis is an expert in diagnosing diseases of the liver and using the latest technologies such as Fibroscan to diagnose and treat patients with chronic liver diseases using the most non-invasive, comfortable methods possible. The Atlantic Gastroenterology team is friendly and welcoming, and the office is conveniently located in Brooklyn to serve the greater New York City area. Call 718 521-2840 to schedule your appointment today.