Conditions We Treat
Norwalk Hospital’s Liver Center, part of our Digestive Diseases Center, offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment for the full spectrum of liver conditions and diseases. Some of the liver conditions we treat are:
Autoimmune liver diseases: The body’s immune system can mistake cells in the liver as foreign, leading to inflammation and scarring. This can happen spontaneously or as a result of drug or alcohol use. Our specialists treat all forms of autoimmune liver diseases, including:
Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH):Occurring primarily in women, AIH results from damage to hepatocytes, the main metabolic cells of the liver. Treatment with steroids and immune-suppressing medications is very effective. Long-term monitoring is necessary to prevent recurrence. The hepatologists at the Norwalk Hospital Liver Center and the Yale School of Medicine Liver Center have long-standing clinical and research interests in AIH.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC): Occurring primarily in women, this disease affects the small bile ducts, causing bile to accumulate in the liver. Treatment with ursodiol, a bile-thinning agent, is supplemented by diet and vitamin therapy. While PBC can be controlled in many patients, this disease can progress to the point where liver transplantation may be required.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC): This disease results from inflammation and scarring of the large bile ducts in the liver, leading to infection and, ultimately, cirrhosis. PSC is often associated with ulcerative colitis.
Our hepatologists work closely with the Hospital’s gastroenterology team to maximize control of both diseases. Treatment with ursodiol, antibiotics and vitamins helps to control symptoms. Because of an increased risk of bile duct cancer, regular MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans are important. PSC is truly a disease requiring the multidisciplinary approach of the Norwalk Hospital Liver Center.
Cirrhosis of the Liver: Chronic inflammation of the liver, from any cause, can lead to cirrhosis, a scarring pattern that alters blood flow through the liver.
This change in blood flow affects the function of the liver, leading to a variety of problems such as ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen), jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), encephalopathy (confusion and altered sleep patterns), kidney failure, and internal bleeding.
Fatty Liver Disease: Excessive buildup of fat in the liver is commonly seen in patients who are overweight, have diabetes or the metabolic syndrome.
In some cases, steato-hepatitis develops, which can lead to cirrhosis and chronic liver disease. Treatment involves careful testing to determine the reason for the fat buildup, followed by an individualized diet and exercise program and avoidance of alcohol. Vitamin E supplements are also useful and medications to control blood sugar may be required. Expert nutritional advice plays a central role in managing fatty liver disease, and all patients at the Norwalk Hospital Liver Center receive individual and group counseling. Patients may also be referred to the Norwalk Hospital Surgical Weight Loss Center, a nationally recognized Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence.
Genetic Liver Diseases: We have expertise in diagnosing and treating inherited forms of liver disease and also offer genetic counseling and screening tests to the families and relatives.
● Hereditary Hemochromatosis: The most common adult genetic liver disease, hereditary hemochromatosis results from excessive iron accumulation in the body, particularly in the liver. Specific and effective treatment is available, but lifelong monitoring in particularly important.
● Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency :This inherited liver disease may affect the liver and /or lungs of children and adults. It is caused by the inability to produce enough A1AT, a protein which protects cells from injury. Management involves education, nutrition counseling and close monitoring for any complications. Liver transplantation may be an option if the disease progresses.
● Wilson’s Disease: This is a rare genetic disorder that results from excessive accumulation of copper in the liver and brain. Oral medications effectively prevent copper buildup, but liver transplantation may be required in some cases. Wilson’s disease is a particular clinical and research interest of the hepatologists at the Yale School of Medicine Liver Center and the Norwalk Hospital Liver Center.
Liver Cancer: Chronic inflammation and cirrhosis can lead to the development of liver cancer, known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Fortunately, regular screenings of the liver with ultrasound, CT (computer-assisted tomography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans can detect HCC in its earliest stages, when treatment is most effective. All patients at Norwalk Hospital’s Liver Center are screened according to the latest treatment protocols, and, in the event that HCC develops, the Center offers the most comprehensive treatments available, including radiofrequency ablation, trans-arterial chemoembolization, transarterial radioembolization, surgical resection, liver and advanced chemotherapy. Enrollment in advanced clinical trials is also available, if appropriate.
Viral Hepatitis: Viral hepatitis is a chronic viral infection of the liver that is caused by infection with either the hepatitis B or C virus. Untreated, both infections can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, and both require lifelong monitoring.
● Hepatitis B (HBV): This virus is transmitted through bodily fluids, with many patients becoming infected during or soon after birth. Effective treatment with oral medications or interferon injections can control, and even eliminate, the infection. The specialists at the Norwalk Hospital Liver Center are very experienced in choosing the correct treatment for each patient with HBV.
● Hepatitis C (HCV): Transmitted via bodily fluids, with chronic infection occurring in about two-thirds of those exposed to the virus. Effective treatments with interferon injections and oral ribavirin can eliminate the infection completely. Clinical trials of new treatments are available for qualified patients. Our multidisciplinary team works closely with patients to help them best manage their disease. We provide the latest anti-viral treatments, combined with individual and group support sessions, diet and exercise consultations, all designed to maximize treatment effectiveness while maintaining quality of life.
Norwalk Hospital Liver Center