SHREVEPORT, La. -- The liver is the largest internal organ in our body, and it has an important function.
“It mainly serves as a filter, but it's also the largest protein producer of your body,” said Dr. David Dies, a gastrointestinal specialist with Christus Shreveport-Bossier Health.
Its function is not only important, “You cannot live without it,” he said.
The most common liver disease in the U.S. is fatty liver disease, which is just as it sounds, fat on the liver.
“Alcohol can cause it. Diabetes, just being obese in general. One in four Americans has fatty liver disease, six in 10 diabetics, nine out of 10 obese people have fatty liver disease,” said Dies.
It is preventable through proper diet and exercise.
“You are what you eat, as they say. Americans eat far too many carbohydrates, far too many fatty foods, and too many processed foods. We need to get back to a diet of lean meats, fruits and vegetables,” Dies said.
While it may go together, fat on the outside is not as dangerous as fat on the inside.
“When you have a big belly, we call that belly fat, that's not so much harmful to you. What's harmful to you is what we call visceral obesity, when you start depositing that fat on your organs,” said Dies. “That's a bad thing.”
And it causes problems with other organs as well.
“I tell my patients, when you're clogging up the filter of your body, your liver, with fat you're naive if you don't think you're clogging up other things, namely your heart and your brain,” he said. “So, my fatty liver patients actually die more of cardiovascular disease than they do with liver disease.”
Liver disease used to only be diagnosed through biopsies. But now, technology has provided a non-invasive, non-painful way through the Liver Multi-Scan. Christus Shreveport-Bossier is the first in Louisiana to have this new technology.
“In the old days, we had MRI, CAT scan and ultrasound. And they were really good at finding masses and stones on the liver,” said Dies. “But they weren't very good at quantifying how much fat, how much scar tissue. This new scan can tell me very exactly to a percentage point how much fat is on your liver. And more important to me as a doctor, how much scar tissue-- we call that fibrosis-- is on the liver without a need for a liver biopsy.”
Dies says the Multi-Scan is a valuable tool in liver research.
“We have a huge liver research program here in this city. Our practice runs it. At any given moment, we have 50 or 60 liver studies. We are one of the biggest contributors to liver research in this country,” he said.
He says being able to see how new medications are affecting the liver without doing continuous biopsies is a positive for both doctors and patients.
“We are sort of a center for liver disease in Shreveport, Louisiana. We have people coming from East Texas, South Arkansas. They recognize us as such, and we're thankful," Dies said.