New Liver Scanner Replaces Painful Biopsies

Kaye Doud is about to get a liver test, but she’s all smiles.

It might seem unusual for a patient to be so excited to have a test, but Kaye has lived with autoimmune hepatitis for 20 years – a disease that made her feel fatigued, run-down and achy. Kaye took medication, but every few years, she had to go to the hospital for a liver biopsy.

“It’s frightening,” said Kaye. “You don’t sleep the night before… you can’t breathe when they put the needle in and they do three pokes. It’s not easy; it is an ordeal.”

And, it was expensive. Thousands of dollars to do a liver biopsy.

So ProMedica Physicians Digestive Healthcare invested in a liver scanner that can tell the condition of the liver without needles.

“I think this is a very major advance for both the patients and for us,” says Michael Basista, MD, a gastroenterologist with ProMedica Physicians. “With this, it’s 10 minutes maybe, and you have an answer right away without waiting for a report to come back. I’m pretty sure they’re comfortable during this, and it’s cheap.”

The liver scanner works with sound waves, similar to an ultrasound machine, but it doesn’t actually show a picture. Instead, it gives number readings to determine the health of the liver.

Dr. Basista explains, “The theory is sound travels slower through something that’s soft and faster through something that’s hard. So you can imagine a bowl of jelly, it takes a while for the wave to get through, but something like a block of ice or glass window, it goes through pretty quick.  This technology measures that speed of transition and compares it to what we know for various diseases and levels of scar tissue. So the faster it goes through the more scar tissue it is. You actually want a slow speed report.”

Kay agrees that this test is much more comfortable than a needle. “Remember when you were a kid and somebody thumped you? That’s all it felt like,” she says.

“The patients have been very happy with this because we have a contingent that have been through liver biopsy before, and don’t look forward to going through it again,” says Dr. Basista. “So between this technology and medications we’re using for hepatitis c, this has gotten to be a way easier process for them. I’m really pleased because rarely do leaps and bounds come with a low price tag. This is a really nice addition to the things we can do for people.”

Patients like Kaye are happy, even excited, to not only save on the cost for the procedure, but also save on time.

“I’m up and I’m done,” says Kaye, smiling.

For more information about the liver scanner, please call Dr. Basista’s office at 419-843-7996.