A liver machine, unveiled last week at Bradford Royal Infirmary, has been described as a ‘wake-up call’, allowing patients at Bradford Teaching Hospitals the ability to avoid invasive and potentially painful liver biopsies.
The new £85,000 Fibroscan liver machine will use the latest technology to examine patients’ organs without the need to undergo surgery of any sort.
The machine works by placing a probe on the patient’s skin which provides immediate, non-invasive information on the state and condition of the liver.
By using this method, patients can get a quicker diagnosis and avoid having to undergo an invasive liver biopsy, which has been the standard way of assessing liver tissue up to now.
Consultant hepatologist, Dr Sulleman Moreea, a committee member of the liver section of the British Society of Gastroenterologists, estimates that 20 per cent of Bradford patients should no longer need a biopsy.
He welcomed the equipment for its quick and pain free technology and hopes that the machines will allow for the elimination of liver biopsies altogether within five to ten years.
He said: “Fibroscan represents the latest in cutting edge technology and is good news for our liver patients and for those people who we suspect might have liver disease.
“Up to now we have used liver biopsies to determine the nature and extent of liver disease.
“A biopsy is time consuming as patients have to spend the day in hospital having blood tests, and it needs to be carried out by an expert radiologist after the skin is injected with local anesthetic, carrying a risk of discomfort and a smaller risk of internal bleeding.
“However, the Fibroscan is a completely painless and non-invasive procedure which can be completed in 15 minutes in our outpatient department.”
There are currently three Fibroscan machines in operation in West Yorkshire in total yet Bradford has become the first in the region to use it to measure fat content in the liver.
“Diagnosing liver disease and damage as early as possible is paramount in giving patients the best chances of recovery,” added Dr Moreea. “Patients can instantly see pictures of the liver and the figures generated by the machine. This can be the incentive they need to change their lifestyles to improve their liver health.
“While all other causes of death are falling, the number of people dying from liver disease is rising.”
Liver disease is the fifth biggest cause of death in England and Wales after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease.