Liver is a vital organ. It has many roles in the physiologic pathways including protein productions, clotting function, iron metabolism, production of bile and cholesterol, etc. as well as metabolism and filtering of waste products. We should think of it as a refinery, for conversion of raw material from food to energy used by our body, in addition to a processing and distribution center for mineral, and nutrients. Liver injury can have devistating effects and long term ramifications if unchecked.
Liver is also very resilient and forgiving to stressors and injury. The liver will tolerate repeated insults caused by Medication (both prescription and over the counter) , obesity, Diabetes, alcohol, and herbal supplements, to name a few, but only if care is taken and the offending stressor is removed. During the injury phase, however, the liver may have a difficult time keeping up with bodily function needs due to loss of fully function cells.
The anatomy of liver can change from normal (both visually to the naked eye and under microscope) to mild inflammation and reverse back to normal if the underlying causes of injury are removed. IF, however, the anatomy of the liver changes with fibrosis, it crosses to an irreversible range where it can only be prevented from progressing rather than reversing.
A normal liver is soft, smooth, shinny with well defined edges. As liver injury sets in, it develops “cobble stone” characteristics with loss of well defined edges and becomes hard. Obesity is a risk factor for this type of liver injury. So are some of the medications that patients take for diabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride, pain medications.
In the obese population, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) causes inflammation and a slow diminishing functionality of the liver. NAFLD is the leading cause of liver disease in the U.S. Unchecked or untreated NAFLD can progress to NASH (Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis. NAFLD or “fatty” liver disease is an accumulation of fat within the liver. NASH is a progression that can lead to inflammation of the liver cells or advance to fibrosis and cirrhosis. In addition to liver injury, there is some evidence that NAFLD also correlates with cardiovascular disease.
Causes of NAFLD:
- Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms may include fatigue, right upper quadrant pain, liver enzyme elevation
During bariatric or weight loss surgery we visualize and occasionally biopsy the liver to define the degree of injury, if identified. Following weight loss surgical procedure a rise in liver function enzymes may be expected due to the processing of waste products following fat mass loss. However, long term bariatric procedures can significantly improve NAFLD and NASH. Bariatric procedure require the adherence to protein and supplement requirements as well as regular physician visits. Past blog of liver disease.