Clinical Hepatology

Our experienced hepatologists (liver specialists) deliver an advanced level of care to hepatology patients in the diagnosis, treatment and management of liver disease.

In addition, our hepatologists remain at the forefront of medical advancement, participating in clinical trials of new and emerging therapies in liver disease including antiviral agents for hepatitis C that will revolutionise care of this disease. 

Liver disease and conditions

Liver disease is very common in the Australian community due to the high prevalence of obesity related liver disease, ongoing high rates of alcohol consumption and the modern epidemic of hepatitis C. It is because of the impact that lifestyle has on liver disease that it is considered a preventable disease.

Some liver diseases and conditions that we provide patient care for at our hepatology clinics in Brisbane include:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver (late stage fibrosis)
  • Viral hepatitis infections
    • Hepatitis A
    • Hepatitis B
    • Hepatitis C
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
    • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Liver failure
  • Autoimmune liver disease
    • Primary billary cirrhosis (PBC)
    • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)
  • Haemochromatosis
  • Liver cancer
Illustration of a healthy liver compared with a liver suffering from cirrhosis

Symptoms of liver disease

The liver is a vital organ for supporting life, and it is critically important that you visit your GP if you experience any symptoms associated with liver disease. 

Some symptoms that may be associated with liver disease include: 

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • Vomiting blood
  • Thick, sticky tar like stools
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal swelling or pain in the upper right-hand side of the body
  • Noticeable changes to mental state, including disorientation and confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Musty or sweet smelling breath

Diagnosis and treatment

In the diagnosis of liver diseases we use new and emerging non-invasive strategies to determine the extent and severity of liver disease without the need for a liver biopsy.  Whilst, a liver biopsy may still be required, depending upon the circumstances of each case, we aim for non-invasive techniques when possible. 

One technique that we use in assessing the level of liver fibrosis (scarring of the liver) is a FibroScan®. This non-invasive technique is quick and painless. Learn more about our FibroScan® service.

The appropriate treatment of liver disease is dependent upon the stage of liver damage, and the underlying cause. It may require medication, lifestyle changes, dialysis or a liver transplant. 

Lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle are a leading cause behind liver disease in Australia, and it is critically important that behavioural modifications are made to treat stages of liver failure before it becomes irreversible.   

In the case of liver cancer, our hepatologists work closely with our surgical colleagues to provide the optimal treatment for liver cancer patients.

Stages of liver damage

The liver is an amazing organ that has an ability to regenerate. However, this regeneration is dependent upon the extent of damage that has occurred to the liver. It is important that liver disease is treated and managed as early as possible so that the liver may heal and return to full functioning. Once end-stage liver disease (ESLD) is reached the damage to the liver is irreversible, requiring a liver transplant.

The stages of liver damage include: 

  1. Inflammation or enlargement of the liver
  2. Fibrosis (Healthy liver tissue begins to be replaced with scarring)
  3. Cirrhosis (The liver struggles to function property because of significant build-up of scarring)
  4. End-stage liver disease (At this stage, the damage done to the liver is irreversible)
  5. Liver Cancer (This can occur at any stage, but there is greater risk for patients with cirrhosis)

Hepatology care at Queensland Gastroenterology

For a consultation with one of our hepatologists, patients require a referral from their GP or medical specialist. 

Learn about the liver and why it is important to our health