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Fatty liver? How Bariatric Surgery Can Help.

About The Liver

The liver is a vital and fascinating organ. It’s about the size of a football and sits under your ribs on the right side of your abdomen. It’s responsible for more than 500 different functions in your body and has a unique capacity to regenerate itself after damage (though it can only cope with so much).

That’s good because our modern Western lifestyle can do a lot of damage to the liver, leading to conditions such as fatty liver. But a new study shows that bariatric surgery can significantly reduce the risk of severe liver disease and severe cardiovascular conditions.

What Is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

It’s pretty much what it sounds like – a condition where fat builds up in your liver. In most cases, it doesn’t affect your liver function but, in up to 30% of cases, it may lead to scarring, cirrhosis and liver failure.

Non-alcholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a type of fatty liver disease that involves:

  • Inflammation
  • Liver damage
  • Fat in the liver.

NASH rarely causes obvious symptoms. Doctors may check for fatty liver if you have risk factors such as:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of fat in your blood (cholesterol and triglycerides).

If your doctors suspect NASH, they may order blood tests or a biopsy. There are no medicines to treat NASH. The most recognised treatment is weight loss, which can reduce fat, inflammation and fibrosis in the liver.

It’s not easy to lose weight though. Many people struggle to shift the necessary kilos. Bariatric surgery helps by restricting the amount of calories you can eat and/or changing the way your body absorbs calories. It gives you a head-start on weight loss. And new research shows that it can also ease fatty liver.

The SPLENDOR Study

The prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association recently published the findings of the Cleveland Clinic’s SPLENDOR study (Surgical Procedures and Long-term Effectiveness in NASH Disease and Obesity Risk).

The study aimed to find out whether a patient with obesity and fatty liver disease who had bariatric surgery would be less likely to develop cirrhosis or serious cardiovascular conditions in the years following the surgery.

To answer that question, they recruited 1158 patients with NASH proven by a liver biopsy at the Cleveland Clinic between 2004-2016. The intervention group of 650 patients had bariatric surgery while the other 508 did not have surgery. The researchers followed up the patients until March 2021.

They found that the group who had surgery had significantly better liver health. Bariatric surgery was associated with:

  • An 88% reduced risk for fatty liver progressing to severe liver disease such as cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver-related death
  • A 70% lower risk of severe cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke).

That’s impressive. So impressive, in fact, that the president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery says that bariatric surgery should now be considered a first line treatment for NASH.

How Can Dr Lockie Help?

Excess weight places enormous stress on your body. It affects practically every aspect of your health and life, including your reproductive system, respiratory function, musculoskeletal health. It increases your risk of many serious conditions including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Carrying the extra weight puts your body under greater mechanical stress and changes your hormones and metabolism.

It’s a big deal – so it’s important to take action.

We’re here to support you in losing weight. If you’d like to explore how bariatric surgery could help you with fatty liver, then please book a FREE no-obligation consultation with our Perioperative Nurse Surgical Assistant, Shirley Lockie.

Disclaimer

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion. Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.

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