Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • When you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), your liver has more fat in it than it should. Your liver is in the upper right side of your abdomen (stomach) and under your lower ribs. It makes a fluid called bile that helps digest (break down) food to turn it into energy. You may have a mild form of NAFLD (simple steatosis) or a severe form called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). With NASH, your liver cells may become damaged and inflamed (swollen). You may get very serious liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. With NAFLD, you may have swelling or pain on the upper right side of your abdomen. You may have skin darkening, feel more tired than usual, or have extra fat around your waist.
    Picture of the location of the liver


  • The cause of NAFLD is not known. People who have NAFLD are usually overweight and eat too many fatty foods. People who have NAFLD also may have diseases such as diabetes (high blood sugar), hepatitis, or metabolic syndrome. NAFLD is usually diagnosed with blood tests, imaging tests, or a liver biopsy. Weight loss by diet and exercise is a common treatment for NAFLD. With treatment, you may be less likely to have NASH and other liver problems. Your liver may become healthier, less fatty, and may work better than before treatment.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • After a biopsy, you may have pain where the needle was put in. Losing weight too quickly after weight loss surgery or dieting may make your NAFLD worse. Your liver could become damaged and stop working. Medicine may cause you to feel sick to your stomach or have diarrhea (loose, watery stools). You could develop new fat around your stomach. Your bones may become frail and they may break easier than before taking medicine. Your liver or heart could fail and you could die.

  • Without treatment, you may develop NASH and your liver cells may become damaged and inflamed. NASH or cirrhosis also may cause your liver to have fibrosis (too many tissue fibers). NASH also may cause you to get liver cancer. If you get cirrhosis, your liver cells will become damaged and you may need a liver transplant. Both of these conditions may cause your liver to fail and you may die. Call your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV (intravenous)

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Tests:

  • Blood and urine tests: Your caregiver will do blood tests to check how your liver is working. He also may measure the sugar and iron in your blood. You may have blood or urine tests to check for causes of your NAFLD, such as diabetes.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called an MRI. An MRI may show how much fat you have in your liver. During the MRI, pictures are taken of your abdomen. You will need to lie very still during an MRI. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This can cause serious injury.

  • Liver biopsy:

    • Your caregiver may do a liver biopsy to see if you have NASH. A liver biopsy will show if your liver has inflammation or fibrosis. It will help your caregiver see if there have been any changes in your liver cells. A biopsy also will help your caregiver decide if your NASH is severe. Your caregiver may do a liver biopsy right away or wait until you have had a few months of treatment.

    • During a liver biopsy, a small piece of your liver is removed and sent to a lab for tests. Caregivers will clean the area of your skin that will be biopsied. You may be given medicine to lose feeling in the area to be biopsied. A needle is put through the wall of your abdomen or between your ribs. The needle then moves into the liver and a small piece of your liver is taken out. You will have a bandage put over the area where you were biopsied.

Surgery:

Your caregiver may suggest weight loss surgery for NAFLD if other treatments do not work for you. Weight loss surgery may help you feel less hungry. You may have trouble eating foods with sugar and fat after surgery. Eating fewer foods with sugar and fat may cause you to lose weight. Weight loss surgery may help decrease the fat in your liver. It also may help your liver become healthier.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of the Blausen Databases or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (Inpatient Care)

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