Liver Transplant Key to Treating Advanced Hepatitis Complications
Physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi are urging residents to be screened for viral hepatitis, a leading cause of liver damage and cancer, in advance of World Hepatitis Day on July 28.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, often caused by a viral infection. The condition can either be acute, lasting less than six months, or in some cases become chronic, necessitating careful management and treatment.
While vaccines for hepatitis A and B available, there is currently no vaccine that can protect against hepatitis-C, a leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer in the UAE.
World Hepatitis Day is an international awareness day, which aims to reach some of the people living with viral hepatitis who are unaware they have the condition. Nine out of ten people with hepatitis-B are unaware they have the disease.
“Hepatitis often goes undiagnosed as people don’t tend to notice any symptoms until it has already damaged the liver. It is important that people are screened, because a simple test can help them avoid serious complications and permanent damage,” says Dr. Shiva Kumar, Chair of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Hepatitis screening consists of a simple blood test to identify the presence of the virus. If a patient tests positive for the virus and is found to have advanced liver damage or fibrosis, physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi can assess prognosis their liver function using an advanced nuclear medicine technique that is only available at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and a few facilities in the USA. This detailed liver function assessment allows doctors to determine the type and extent of treatment required. Patients who test negative for viral hepatitis may be offered hepatitis A and B vaccination to prevent them acquiring the condition in the future.
Left untreated, chronic viral hepatitis can lead to a range of serious complications such as cirrhosis, liver failure and even cancer. Once a patient develops such complications they may require complex surgery, including liver resection and even liver transplantation.
“Patients suffering from chronic viral hepatitis are at risk of developing cirrhosis, which can then progress to liver failure or liver cancer. Once a patient’s liver is damaged to the point that they develop liver failure, a liver transplant is the only option we have to save their life. Diagnosing viral hepatitis and its complications as early as possible may enable us to consider other surgical and non-surgical treatment options,” explains Dr. Kumar.
Cirrhosis occurs when inflammation caused by the virus progresses to permanent scarring of the liver, reducing its ability to function. In the early stages of cirrhosis, there may be very few symptoms. As the condition progresses, it can lead to fatigue, weight loss, itchy skin and jaundice. While the condition can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications, advanced cases require a transplant to save the patient’s life.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s only multi-organ transplant center. The hospital performed the UAE’s first deceased donor liver transplant in February 2018 and offers advanced robotic and minimally-invasive surgery for liver patients.
The Liver Disease Program at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Digestive Disease Institute offers comprehensive, multi-disciplinary evaluation and treatment for the entire spectrum of liver disease, ranging from outpatient evaluation to inpatient care of those with advanced liver disease, such as liver failure and related complications.