Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common liver condition that requires timely diagnosis. It involves a spectrum of liver conditions ranging from non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) to fibrosis and can eventually evolve into cirrhosis.
Over the years, liver biopsy has been the popular diagnostic procedure for NASH/NAFLD. However, considering the progressive nature of NAFLD, sole reliance on liver biopsy procedures does not only lack feasibility but is also susceptible to suboptimal standardization. Going through liver biopsy surgery is unnecessary at the slightest observation of NAFLD symptoms.
Observing NASH/NAFLD red flags is not enough to determine the presence of the disease. You will need a proper diagnosis to ascertain the liver condition. This article emphasizes the benefits of choosing the non-invasive liver test diagnostic procedure instead of the invasive method.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is one of two types: simple fatty liver or NAFL and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). Simple fatty liver or NAFL indicates the presence of fat in the liver. NASH is the least common and clinically aggressive variant of NAFLD.
NASH, on the other hand, implies liver inflammation or apoptosis. NASH patients experience a higher risk of progressing into fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Though most people experience no symptoms, there are undoubtedly some signs of NASH that you can observe if it occurs persistently.
Although less than 20% of people living with NAFLD have NASH, a proper diagnosis is still required to prevent further liver damage.
Invasive Liver Test Procedure
The invasive diagnostic method is a major liver biopsy. A liver biopsy involves the examination of tissue taken from the patient’s liver with a needle to verify the presence of NASH.
Although liver biopsy is the standard diagnostic method, it has numerous limitations and drawbacks. Issues like sampling error, high cost, and in rare cases, specific complications. Complications from a liver biopsy can range from internal bleeding, bile leak, or even a leak of the gallbladder.
More than 70% of people living with NAFLD do not need a liver biopsy as they only have a simple fatty liver as opposed to NASH.
Non-Invasive Liver Test Procedure
Many medical researchers have focused on establishing non-invasive procedures as a better diagnostic option. Currently, the following are the non-invasive methods available:
Laboratory And Radiology Imaging Tests
- Transient Elastography
- Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse
- Magnetic Resonance Elastography
- Computerized Tomography (CT) Scanning
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- FibroScan-AST (FAST)
- High-Sensitivity C Reactive Protein
- Plasma Pentraxin 3
- Tissue Polypeptide Specific Antigen.
Clinical signs and other combinations of clinical and blood test results are also non-invasive diagnostic methods.
Advantages Of Non-Invasive Diagnostic Methods
Non-invasive assessment of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease desirability is increasing due to the invasive nature of the current assessment method: liver biopsy.
The following are significant benefits of non-invasive NASH/NAFLD diagnostic methods:
Non-invasive diagnostic methods for NASH/NAFLD cost far less than the liver biopsy invasive procedure. Before now, some patients found liver biopsy unaffordable and were unable to go through the process. All the non-invasive methods listed above are affordable and accessible.
Due to the invasive and technical nature of liver biopsy, it is not the best option for early detection of NASH/NAFLD. The biopsy is usually the last resort to determine the extent of damage caused by the fat in the liver.
When you observe signs of NASH in your body, opting for quick imaging or serum markers tests can help detect the presence of the disease early.
Absence Of Complications
Zero complications characterize the non-invasive diagnostic methods. The examiner has no direct contact with your liver or any internal organs. Hence, you don’t have to worry about bleeding or injury to nearby organs like bile or bladder that might occur during a liver biopsy. It also has no record of mortality or morbidity.
Progression Evaluation And Monitoring
Based on the drawbacks of liver biopsy, the procedure cannot be performed repeatedly. However, you can do the non-invasive methods as many times as necessary.
Hence, it makes it easy to evaluate and monitor the progression of NAFLD at intervals without risking further damage.
Non-invasive methods can guarantee the accuracy, especially when you use the imaging method. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a non-invasive technique, is the most accurate method to differentiate between NASH and NAFL.
Impaired accuracy characterizes the invasive method. Sampling variability can occur in liver biopsy because the sample picked with a needle is only a tiny fraction and might not represent the condition of the whole liver.
The Earlier, The Better
Early diagnosis of NASH could slow progression, reduce disease prevalence, and minimize cost. Non-invasive methods have created a bypass to liver biopsy. These methods are accessible, affordable, and complication-free.
Early detection of NASH can aid reversal by stopping the inflamed liver from developing thick scarring. Late detection is responsible for fibrosis, cirrhosis, or even liver cancer.
Therefore, when you observe any liver-related alterations in your bodily functions, you need to do a liver ultrasound as early as possible.