Hepatology is a branch of medicine concerned with the study, prevention, diagnosis and management of diseases that affect the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas. The term hepatology is derived from the Greek words “hepatikos” and “logia,” which mean liver and study, respectively.
Hepatitis affects millions of individuals globally and is associated with several poor outcomes including liver transplant and liver cancer. In particular, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are major causes of liver cancer, while alcohol abuse has been linked to conditions such as cirrhosis and other serious complications. The conditions hepatologists deal with most frequently are viral hepatitis and alcohol-related liver disease.
Some of the most common ailments that are assessed, diagnosed and managed by a hepatologist include:
Hepatology used to be considered a subspecialty of gastroenterology, but nowadays doctors can specialize in hepatology, which is quickly emerging as a freestanding speciality. As a critical organ that can be affected by a large number of factors, the liver is usually the focal point in hepatology.
A hepatologist generally only assesses patients after they are referred by their doctor. A hepatologist may also be involved in the follow-up of patients who have received a liver transplant.
Some of the procedures hepatologists are required to perform include the following:
In addition to caring for patients, a hepatologist may be involved in research looking at novel therapeutic approaches to disease or prevention methods such as screening, for example.