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Fibroscanning to detect liver disease early

14th November 2022


Alcohol Awareness Week is Belfast Trust Addiction Services are highlighting the importance of identifying early signs of liver disease to help prevent alcohol related deaths.

Northern Ireland has seen a 54% in alcohol related deaths in Northern Ireland with data showing that they’re at highest ever levels with 340 to 350 deaths in the last year.

The Addiction Service has invested in a fibroscanner to help identify liver disease in patients who may not show the traditional signs or feel unwell.

Dr Joy Watson, Consultant in Addiction Services, said: “Research is emerging that perhaps this is related to the Covid pandemic and the lockdowns, with increased drinking patterns. Here, as a service, we really believed that we needed to do something about this. That we needed to try and reduce down alcohol related harm, particularly try and make our mark on alcohol related deaths in Northern Ireland.

“People maybe don’t even know that they’re drinking as much as they are, and also, they don’t know that they have the damage to the extent that they have it. So for an example, they may
have normal blood tests that show that their liver isn’t damaged or isn’t showing the extent and then when we go to do these tests, such as a fibroscanner, we’re able to detect if they do have damage to their liver.”

Andrew Teeney, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Addiction Service, explained the scanner worked through ultrasound technology and provided immediate feedback to the team.

He said: “A fibroscanner is a piece of medical equipment that sends and ultrasound pulse through the liver to detect how stiff the liver is, it provides us with a score and a score over a certain level indicates that there is some damage to the liver. We can then tell our patients that they do have a degree of liver damage and actually in some cases sclerosis.”