By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Hepatology is a branch of medicine concerned with the study and management of diseases that affect the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas. The term hepatology is derived from the Greek word “hepar” that means liver and “logia” that means study.
Hepatology has previously been considered a subspecialty of gastroenterology, but nowadays doctors can specialize in hepatology alone. These doctors are referred to as hepatologists.
Some of the most common liver ailments that are assessed, diagnosed and managed by hepatologists include:
- Diseases of the liver related to excess alcohol consumption, including fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Viral hepatitis infections (hepatitis A, B, C and E). Over two billion individuals have been infected with hepatitis B at some point and around 350 million people are persistent carriers. With widespread vaccination and blood screening, the incidence of hepatitis B has significantly decreased. However, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are accountable for up to 80% of liver cancer cases.
- Drug overdose, particularly paracetamol overdose
- Gastrointestinal bleeding caused by portal hypertension linked to liver injury
- Enzyme defects causing liver enlargement in children, also known of as liver storage diseases
- Some tropical infections such as hydatid cyst, kala-azar or schistosomiasis
- Liver transplant
- Pancreatitis, usually when caused by alcohol consumption or gallstones
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2014