A number of different conditions can cause liver disease, including inflammation/infection, scarring (cirrhosis), metabolic disorders, and liver cancer. Most people do not know they have a liver problem until it has progressed enough to cause symptoms. Common symptoms of liver disease include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and generally not feeling well. Liver disease can be diagnosed with blood work and advanced imaging technology.
Cirrhosis is one of the most common types of liver disease. The condition, which is characterized by a build-up of scar tissue in the liver, is typically caused by alcohol abuse or a viral infection like hepatitis, but it can also be associated with diabetes or too much fat in the liver.
When cirrhosis is present, the liver is not able to perform its necessary functions. Too much scar tissue in the liver causes high blood pressure in the portal vein – the vein that drains the intestine and the spleen into the liver. This is called portal hypertension, and it can result in the formation of varicose veins in the abdomen that can cause problems with bleeding.
To treat portal hypertension caused by cirrhosis, the interventional radiologists at South Florida Vascular Associates can perform a minimally invasive procedure called portal vein recanalization.
Another condition that people get with cirrhosis is ascites, in which hypertension in the portal vein leads to recurrent fluid build-up in the abdomen. Ascites can be treated by an interventional radiologist with a procedure called paracentesis, which involves placing a needle into the abdomen to drain the fluid off. This is an effective minimally invasive way to treat ascites.
When less invasive techniques do not work, we can do a procedure called TIPS (Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt), but it does not treat liver function. It is basically a plumbing tactic to help relieve the bleeding and fluid build-up caused by cirrhosis. TIPS is a fairly serious procedure that we like to talk at length about and review with a gastroenterologist before deciding to use it as part of a treatment plan for cirrhosis.