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The liver is involved in almost every organ system in the body. It aids digestion and metabolism by interacting with the endocrine and gastrointestinal systems. The liver is responsible for fat-soluble vitamin storage and cholesterol homeostasis. The liver stores iron and copper. It helps with clotting factors and protein synthesis in hematology. So what is the study of the liver known as, and what are its functions? Continue reading to find out.
What is the study of the liver called?
The study of the liver is called Hepatology. Hepatology is a medicine branch focusing on liver diseases and related conditions. The term ‘hepatology’ comes from the Greek words ‘hepatikos’ and ‘logia,’ which mean ‘liver’ and ‘study,’ respectively. A hepatologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating hepatic diseases.
Key facts about the liver
- The liver filters all of the blood in the body and degrades poisonous substances like alcohol and drugs.
- The liver also produces bile, a fluid that aids in fat digestion and waste removal.
- The liver is divided into four lobes, each having eight sections and thousands of lobules (or small lobes).
What is hepatology?
Hepatology differs from other subspecialties of medicine in that it focuses on organs affected by hepatic diseases. The following organs are part of your hepatic system.
The liver is the primary focus of hepatology. It is a vital organ responsible for digesting the foods you eat, supporting your metabolism, and eliminating toxins. The liver also aids in storing and processing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins D3 and E.
The pancreas, located behind the stomach, is in charge of producing insulin and digestive enzymes. Acute or chronic pancreatitis can occur when digestive enzymes cause damage to the pancreas, resulting in severe inflammation. It can also happen when the digestive enzymes produced by the liver or pancreas cannot release due to a stone blockage.
The gallbladder is a small organ in the upper right corner of your stomach. The gallbladder is a pouch that stores bile from the liver, when you eat something, your stomach contracts and dumps its contents into your intestines to aid digestion. Gallstones can form due to bile imbalances, which block the bile flow.
The biliary tract, also known as the biliary tree or biliary system, is the connection or tract that connects the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. The biliary tract allows bile and pancreatic enzymes to enter the small intestine and aid in digestion, particularly fat digestion.
Histological components of the liver
The liver consists of the following histological components
- Parenchyma, represented by hepatocytes
- Stroma is a continuation of Glisson’s surrounding capsule. It is made up of connective tissue and houses the vessels. A layer of the mesothelium, derived from the peritoneum that covers the liver, also covers the capsule. The stroma’s connective tissue is type III collagen (reticulin), which forms a meshwork that protects the hepatocytes and sinusoids.
- Sinusoids are capillaries that connect hepatocytes.
- Spaces of Disse (perisinusoidal spaces) that one can locate between the hepatocytes and the sinusoids.
What is a hepatologist?
Hepatologists are doctors who specialize in hepatic diseases and the organs affected by these conditions. Their mission is to aid in diagnosing and treating hepatic disorders such as hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and pancreatitis.
While the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) does not recognize hepatology as a board-certified specialty, it is widely known as a subspecialty of gastroenterology. Only in the last few decades was it recognized as distinct from gastroenterology. As a result, doctors trained in hepatology must first be certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology.
The liver is usually the focal point in hepatology because it is a critical organ that can be affected by many factors.
A hepatologist typically only evaluates patients referred by their primary care physician. A hepatologist may also follow up with patients who have received a liver transplant.
What conditions do hepatologists treat?
Below are some of the conditions treated by hepatologists-
- Fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis, and liver cancer are all liver diseases caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
- Infections with viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, and E)
- Overdoes from drugs, particularly paracetamol
- Gastrointestinal bleeding caused by portal hypertension is linked to liver damage.
- Enzyme defects in children that cause liver enlargement, also known as liver storage diseases
- Tropical infections like hydatid cyst, kala-azar, and schistosomiasis
- Transplantation of the liver
- Cancer of the liver
- Liver disease caused by genetic and metabolic factors
- Pancreatitis is a condition due to alcohol consumption or gallstones.
- Metabolism of drugs
- Damage to the pancreas or biliary tract due to an infection, cancer, alcoholism, bleeding, or obstruction.
Procedures hepatologists are required to perform
The following are some of the procedures hepatologists must perform-
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure for many biliary and pancreatic diseases.
- Transhepatic pancreato-cholangiography is a type of X-ray imaging used to detect obstructions in the bile ducts or liver.
- The transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt is an artificial channel connecting the portal and hepatic veins.
- Hepatology was previously considered a subspecialty of gastroenterology; however, doctors can now specialize in hepatology, quickly emerging as a separate specialty.
- Diseases of the hepatic system are also becoming more common, making hepatology an even more critical specialty for those suffering from hepatic conditions.
- A hepatologist is a specialist in the branch of medicine known as Hepatology, which studies organs such as the liver, biliary tree, gallbladder, and pancreas.
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Q1. What is liver gastroenterology?
Answer- The gastroenterology service evaluates various digestive conditions, including indigestion, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, abnormal liver function tests, viral hepatitis, and all chronic liver conditions.
Q2. Can the liver repair itself?
Answer- The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself after damage. Even after 90% of the liver has been removed, it can regrow to standard size. However, the liver is not invincible. Many diseases and exposures can damage it beyond repair.
Q3. What vitamins are good for liver repair?
Answer- Vitamins essential for liver health include vitamins D, E, C, and B. Individuals must consume these vitamins regularly as part of a healthy diet plan.