Learn more about your liver health with this easy, painless test
FibroScan is a procedure gastroenterologists use to learn about the health of your liver. In the past, a liver biopsy was the gold standard in screening for liver disease. But biopsies require an IV line, and usually a sedative, as well as several hours of a patient’s time. Fortunately, patients today have better options.
Since 2013, FibroScan technology has been available in the U.S. A FibroScan gives us much of the same information as a biopsy, only it’s quick, easy and painless. Learn more about how the test works below.
What is a FibroScan?
If you aren’t familiar with FibroScan, you may be asking, “What is a FibroScan of the liver?” or “What does a FibroScan tell you?”
FibroScan® is the actual medical device that scans your liver. It is also the term we use for the FibroScan liver test itself. The term is often confused with “fiber scan,” “fibro scan” or even “fibro liver scan.” FibroScan assesses the health of your liver using advanced ultrasound technology called transient elastography. A FibroScan of liver is basically an ultrasound of the liver. And it’s just as quick and easy as an ultrasound.
How does it work? The test measures liver stiffness to detect liver fibrosis, which is liver scarring in its early stages. Liver scarring can be an indication of liver damage, liver disease and liver cancer. You could say the FibroScan is like a fibrosis scan.
This test will give you and your doctor information and answers about your liver health. For many patients, it is a quick and easy alternative to a liver biopsy.
Who needs a FibroScan?
You might be wondering why and when a doctor would order a FibroScan. Normally, it would be to rule out or diagnose liver disease, or to see if your liver disease is getting worse. The test can also help liver transplant patients monitor their liver health after a transplant.
Here are some of the diseases the liver scan can be used to help diagnose or monitor:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Viral infections of Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
All of these conditions damage the liver and can cause fibrosis, or more serious scarring known as cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis puts you at an increased risk for liver cancer and can also lead to liver failure.
On the other hand, normal results can help to put your mind at ease, especially if you have experienced troubling symptoms.
What can I expect during the FibroScan exam?
The procedure doesn’t take long. In fact, the exam itself usually only takes 5-10 minutes. It is also not painful, and you won’t need sedation.
To prepare, you will fast for several hours before your liver fibrosis test. You will also be asked to only drink clear fluids. You should also choose comfortable clothes for the day of your appointment.
The FibroScan procedure is similar to other ultrasounds. You will lie on your back with your right arm above your head. This provides access to your right rib cage, near where your liver is located. Gel is then applied to that area and the device, which looks similar to an ultrasound, is placed on your skin. The device may vibrate slightly as it sends energy pulses to your liver to measure for liver stiffness.
That’s all there is to it. Within a few business days, you and your doctor will have a better idea of your liver health. Together, you can tackle whatever challenges lay ahead, armed with the knowledge provided by your FibroScan. If you’re interested in learning more, request an appointment today!