By measuring the stiffness of the liver using ultrasound elastography, the Fibroscan is used to assess and monitor liver fibrosis in all conditions that can cause chronic liver damage. This includes viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease and excess alcohol. The machine uses vibrations on the skin causing elastic waves that spread through the liver. The speed at which the waves pass through the liver indicates the level of stiffness present.
Professor Andy Burrows says the machine is a very valuable addition to the diagnostic armoury. “This machine can also pick up scar tissue before a patient gets sclerosis and can be a very useful addition to blood tests and an indicator of the need for a biopsy,” he said. “Silent liver disease needs early treatment and this is one way of identifying patients at risk. It really is a very helpful tool for us.” The scan, which is a perfectly safe non-invasive procedure, takes just ten minutes and one of the Wellington’s liver specialists can explain the findings to a patient immediately.