Ultrasound Imaging Critical for Early Detection of Fatty Liver Disease

finds Apollo Hospitals in an analysis of 53,946 health checks over the past year

National, June 13, 2024: Apollo Hospitals, India’s largest integrated healthcare provider, has identified a much-needed intervention in fatty liver diagnosis in India. Out of over 50000 people (53946), who underwent comprehensive preventive health checks at Apollo Hospitals, 33% were diagnosed with fatty liver. However, among those with fatty liver, only 1 in 3 had their liver enzymes elevated, indicating that diagnosis interventions in our healthcare systems need to go beyond just relying on blood tests for early detection and reversal of such conditions in all individuals.

Currently, the diagnosis of fatty liver disease mainly relies on a combination of patient history, physical examination, and blood tests, including liver enzyme levels and markers of liver function. Imaging studies, such as ultrasound and fibro scan, can help visualize the liver and detect fat accumulation even in cases where liver enzyme levels may not show any significant deviation. Despite this, ultrasound is not always the first choice due to accessibility and perceived necessity based on initial non-imaging assessments. MASLD increases mortality related to liver diseases and cardiovascular, and oncological complications.

Commenting on this, Dr. N. Murugan, Senior Consultant Hepatologist & Liver Transplant Physician, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai said, “The lack of timely diagnosis of fatty liver disease (FLD) is a growing concern. Particularly metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD), caused by factors other than excessive alcohol use, is increasingly prevalent in India due to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Despite its growing incidence, FLD often goes undiagnosed because it’s largely asymptomatic in early stages and would not necessarily reflect through a LFT blood test.”

Early and accurate detection through imaging techniques like ultrasound could lead to timely interventions, lifestyle modifications, and treatment plans that could significantly improve patient outcomes. Therefore, I urge healthcare professionals to consider adopting ultrasound as a more routine diagnostic tool for fatty liver disease and using its benefits are more widely utilized to enhance patient care,” added Dr Akash Roy, Senior Hepatologist at Apollo Hospitals, Kolkata.

Weight reduction is known to be one of the ways to reverse fatty liver in its early stages. Even a 5% to 10% reduction in body weight can significantly reduce liver fat and inflammation. 

Dr. Sathya Sriram, CEO – Preventive Health, Apollo Hospitals, said, “At Apollo Hospitals, our mission in designing preventive health checks was to ensure they are extremely comprehensive, yet relevant to each individual, enabling the early diagnosis of health issues. With Apollo ProHealth, we are personalizing health checks to each person’s risk and our doctors interpret the results for accurate guidance. We have also advocated for integrating ultrasound as a safe and critical component of health checks, recognizing its significant clinical benefits for true preventive care. We hope more and more healthcare providers start utilizing imaging for enhancing patient care, especially in early detection of fatty liver disease.”

Fatty liver disease is related to obesity and diabetes, all of which indicate metabolic dysfunction. Consuming excessive carbs raises insulin levels, and chronic high insulin levels lead to insulin resistance. This disrupts metabolism and converts excess glucose into fatty acids, which are stored in the liver. FLD can be classified into two main types: alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD/MASLD). MASLD can further progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH/MASH), which involves liver inflammation and damage and can eventually lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.

Data break-up:

  n %
Total Screened 53946
Grade I 15497 29%
Grade II 2160 4%
Total Fatty Liver 17657 33%

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