FATTY LIVER DISEASE

The information here is a guide and reflects only the views of Dr Slater, Prof. Fawcett and Dr Hodgkinson.

Fat accumulating in the liver is a very common problem in Australia. It occurs in about 1 in 10 people. This fat collects in and around the liver cells and can cause progressive damage. It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Fatty liver disease is more common if you are overweight, diabetic, have high cholesterol or drink alcohol. There also seem to be genetic factors involved.

There are two types of fatty liver disease:

  1. Steatosis or Non-alchoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

    NAFLD is when there is fat without inflammation. This is thought to be the most common liver disease and it does not seem to cause long term damage.
  2. Steatohepatitis of Non-alcholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)

    NASH is when there is fat with inflammation. This condition may progress and become cirrhosis (irreversible scarring of the liver)
    • The causes of this disease are not completely understood but there are some steps that can be taken to lower the fat content of the liver. These include ensuring that your weight is in the normal weight range for your height, you minimise alcohol intake and you have a normal cholesterol level. These include ensuring that your weight is in the normal range for your height, minimising your alcohol intake and making sure you have a normal cholesterol level.
    • When the liver is very fatty, it makes many types of surgery especially liver resection more difficult. Fat in the liver increases the risks of bleeding and liver failure. If your Body Mass Index is >35, you may be asked to undergo pre-operative weight loss. There are supervised rapid weight loss programs like INTENSIV (http://www.intensivweightloss.com/) available to reduce the fat in the liver prior to surgery. Weight loss of even 10 kg makes a big difference in lowering the risks of liver surgery.