The liver conditions we treat

Among 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 a drug reaction. 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-Yale Liver Center and the Yale Liver Center have longstanding clinical and research interests in AIH, giving you access to the latest knowledge about treating this disease.

Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC): Cirrhosis is a slowly progressing disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, eventually preventing the liver from functioning properly. PBC, which also occurs primarily in women, 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 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 a disease that truly requires the multidisciplinary approach of the Norwalk Hospital-Yale 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.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Excessive buildup of fat in the liver is commonly seen in patients who are overweight, have diabetes or metabolic syndrome. In some cases, steatohepatitis  (NASH) develops, which can lead to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

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 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 families.

  • 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 is especially 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 that 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 rare genetic disorder 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 Liver Center and the Norwalk Hospital-Yale Liver Center, giving you access to the latest knowledge about treatment advances.

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) can detect HCC in its earliest stages, when treatment is most effective.

All patients at the Norwalk Hospital-Yale Liver Center are screened according to the latest treatment protocols and, should HCC develop, the Center offers the most comprehensive treatments available, including radiofrequency ablation, transarterial chemoembolization, transarterial radiotherapy, surgical resection and advanced chemotherapy. Enrollment in advanced clinical trials is also available, if appropriate.

Viral hepatitis: Viral hepatitis is a chronic infection of the liver caused by 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.
  • Hepatitis C (HCV): HCV is transmitted via bodily fluids, with chronic infection occurring in about two-thirds of those exposed to the virus. Highly-effective and well-tolerated oral treatments are available through the Norwalk Hospital-Yale Liver Center. Our multidisciplinary team works closely with patients to help them manage their disease.