Ultrasound elastography uses sound waves to measure the stiffness of liver tissue. Stiffness is a sign of fibrosis. Fibrosis is a condition that reduces blood flow to and inside the liver. This causes the buildup of scar tissue. Left untreated, fibrosis can lead to serious problems in the liver. These include cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. But early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or even reverse the effects of fibrosis.
What is it used for?
An elastography is used to diagnose fatty liver disease (FLD) and fibrosis. FLD is a condition in which normal liver tissue is replaced by fat. This fat can lead to cell death and fibrosis.
Why do I need an elastography?
Many people with fibrosis don't have symptoms. But left untreated, fibrosis will continue to scar the liver and eventually turn into cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is a term used to describe excessive scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis is most often caused by alcohol abuse or hepatitis. In severe cases, cirrhosis can be life threatening. Cirrhosis does cause symptoms. So you may need this test if you have symptoms of cirrhosis or another liver disease.
Symptoms of cirrhosis and other liver diseases are similar and may include:
● Yellowing of the skin. This is known as jaundice.
● Bruising easily
● Heavy nosebleeds
● Swelling in the legs
● Weight loss
What happens during an ultrasound elastography?
You will lie on an examination table on your back, with your right abdominal area exposed.
The radiologist will spread gel on your skin over the area and will place a wand-like device, called a transducer, on the area of skin that covers your liver.
The probe will deliver a series of sound waves. The waves will travel to your liver and bounce back. The waves are so high pitched you can't hear them.
You may feel a gentle flick as this is done, but it should not hurt.
The sound waves are recorded, measured, and displayed on a monitor.
The measurement shows the level of stiffness in the liver.
The procedure only takes about five to ten minutes, but your entire appointment may take a half hour or so.
Are there any risks to the test?
There are no known risks to having an ultrasound elastography.
What do the results mean?
Elastography measure the stiffness of the liver. The stiffer the liver, the more fibrosis you have. Your results may range from no scarring to mild, moderate, or advanced liver scarring. Advanced scarring is known as cirrhosis. Your health care provider may order additional testing, including liver function blood tests or a liver biopsy, to confirm a diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with mild to moderate fibrosis, you may be able to take steps to stop further scarring and sometimes even improve your condition. These steps include:
● Not drinking alcohol
● Not taking illegal drugs
● Eating a healthy diet
● Increasing exercise
● Taking medicine. There are medicines that are effective in treating some types of hepatitis.
If you wait too long for treatment, more and more scar tissue will build up in your liver. This can lead to cirrhosis. Sometimes, the only treatment for advanced cirrhosis is a liver transplant.
If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.