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YNHH program helps uncover and treat a common but “silent” condition 

Yale New Haven Hospital is joining other health organizations worldwide in marking June 10, International NASH Day. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone.
The day was created to raise awareness about nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and other fatty liver diseases are by far the most common chronic liver diseases in the United States and likely in the world,” said Albert Do, MD, clinical director of YNHH’s Fatty Liver Disease Program, part of YNHH’s Digestive Health Service. “These diseases often go undetected.” 

While fat is stored in body tissue, excess fat can gather in the internal organs. When fat accumulates in the liver, it can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Fat build-up causes stress within the liver, often leading to scarring and additional health problems. Fatty liver disease also typically occurs with other obesity-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and diabetes.

Dr. Do explained that fatty liver disease is often silent, much like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. The good news is that fatty liver disease can be readily diagnosed with blood and imaging tests. In addition, the liver has a high capacity to repair itself if the disease is identified in time.

“The most important goal of early detection and care is to diagnose and prevent the disease from progressing to cirrhosis, which is severe liver scarring,” Dr. Do said. “A focus on preventing metabolic and cardiovascular diseases is also important because heart disease is the most common cause of death in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”  

Treatment focuses on weight loss. Studies show that even a moderate weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of body weight can improve inflammation, reduce scarring and allow the liver to regenerate. Ninety percent of patients with fatty liver disease show improvement after bariatric surgery, which also may reduce the risk of liver cancer.

YNHH’s Fatty Liver Disease Program offers evaluation and medical and surgical weight-loss treatments including body composition analysis, liver testing, dietitian consultations, medications for weight loss, meal replacement programs, and referrals for bariatric endoscopy and surgery. 

“We provide a comprehensive, multimodal and patient-centered approach to treatment, including medical weight loss, motivational interviewing and coaching, and pharmacotherapy-driven and dietary programmatic approaches,” Dr. Do said.

For more information about the Fatty Liver Disease Program, call 203-287-6210.