Digital liver scanning could halve number of liver biopsies

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Digital liver scanning technology could halve the number of liver biopsies carried out in people with fatty liver disease


A study, published in the Journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, reveals that a new scanning technology called LiverMultiScan could almost halve the number of liver biopsies carried out in people with fatty liver disease.

The study provides evidence that using the non-invasive LiverMultiScan as a first-line test can rule out the need for further liver tests, and could stop patients having unnecessary biopsies, saving valuable NHS resources and decreasing the overall cost of diagnosis. The researchers calculate a potential saving of around £150,000 per 1,000 patients.

Liver biopsy is the current gold standard for assessing liver disease, however the rising burden of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) calls for simpler and lower risk strategies for managing this clinical problem that meet the needs of clinicians and patients. In this study, the utility of LiverMultiScan – a test that combines digital image processing and trained experts to

quantify and characterise tissue from a standard MRI scan of the liver – was assessed as an alternative method to help doctors to diagnose fatty liver disease. 

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and author of the UK’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy comments, “We are facing an epidemic of fatty liver disease in this country. New ways of accurately diagnosing disease early are essential if we want to tackle this growing issue, which is predicted to lead to many more cases of serious liver damage and people needing liver transplants.”

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is on the increase – the prevalence is estimated at around 20-30% in the UK and these numbers are expected to grow. The UK Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has warned of the impact this will have on the nation’s health, and the drain on NHS resources.