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Newly Approved Ultrasound Device Eliminates Risks and Pain of Liver Biopsy

DETROIT, Oct. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Henry Ford Hospital is the first in Michigan to use a pioneering ultrasound device that can help patients with liver disease avoid invasive biopsies to manage their disorders.

FibroScan® replaces repeated and sometimes painful liver biopsies for patients with chronic hepatitis C and B, fatty liver diseases and other hepatic disorders with a quick and painless procedure similar to the familiar ultrasound tests used to track pregnancy and diagnose internal diseases.

The device is based on a technology called transient elastography, which measures liver "stiffness" to assess disease and guide ongoing treatment.

"FibroScan® is designed to measure liver fibrosis using a painless, non-invasive method of assessing many of the same conditions measured with biopsy," says Stuart Gordon, M.D., Director of Hepatology at Henry Ford Hospital. "It's an outpatient procedure taking less than 15 minutes."

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease being held in Washington, DC, a multi-center study will be presented Monday, Nov. 4, which "confirms that (Fibroscan®) very accurately assesses presence of cirrhosis in patients with chronic type B and C viral hepatitis."

Henry Ford Hospital was one of the seven U.S. institutions that conducted the study.

The patient feels only a slight vibration on the skin, the results are immediate and, because it does no harm, the procedure can be safely repeated as often as necessary.

About 150,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with chronic liver disease annually, about a fifth of them with cirrhosis, a scarring of the liver.

By one conservative estimate, more than 30,000 liver biopsies are performed in the U.S. each year, a number that led to medical discussions and calls for ways to make the procedure more "acceptable" to patients.

Cirrhosis and other diseases of the liver result from or cause hepatic fibrosis, in which fibrous scars develop as part of the liver's mechanism to heal its own damage.

Sometimes it's beneficial because the scar tissue surrounds and blocks off the cause of the damage. But often this scarring develops to the point that it interferes with liver function, as in cirrhosis.

For decades, a liver biopsy has been considered the "gold standard" for assessing liver disease. In most cases, the biopsy involves using a needle inserted through the skin and underlying tissue and into the liver to collect a sample of tissue. It's widely regarded as safe, but because it is invasive, it carries risks ranging from bleeding to rare instances of death. In addition, a proportion of liver biopsy patients complain of severe pain during the procedure.

Using FibroScan ®, the skin in the area of the liver is first coated with a water-based gel. The doctor then passes an ultrasound sensor over the area to take 10 consecutive readings. The sensor produces vibrations that create a low-frequency seismic wave sent between the ribs and into the liver. The speed of the wave as it passes through the liver is used to determine the hardness or stiffness of the organ – the faster the wave, the harder the tissue.

The data collected during the readings are collected and analyzed in the console connected to the sensor, and provides immediate results on the presence and severity of liver fibrosis.

FibroScan® is produced by Paris-based Echosens, entered the European market in 2003 and was already being used in more than 70 countries worldwide when it received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April.

Note: To access Fibroscan® a patient needs a physician referral. The cost is $200. Email:



SOURCE Henry Ford Hospital
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