Researchers from the NIHR Nottingham Digestive Diseases Biomedical Research Unit at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and The University of Nottingham have found a non-invasive method of estimating the pressure in the blood circulation of the liver using Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique.
This has a potential to transform the care of patients with cirrhosis of the liver, which the Secretary of State for Health has named as the third-most important cause of premature death. The findings of the study conducted in Nottingham and Derby are published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Hepatology.
Accumulation of scar tissue increases the resistance to blood flow within the liver. Build-up of the pressure in liver circulation leads to the formation of varicose veins in the gullet and stomach as well as accumulation of fluid in the body. The subsequent rupture of these veins carries a high mortality risk. We currently measure this pressure by passing a long catheter through the jugular vein in the neck into the liver. This is an expensive and invasive test, which carries a small yet significant risk of complications. The test is not available outside specialised liver centres.
The team of researchers led by Professors Guruprasad Aithal and Susan Francis have developed the MRI scan to assess high blood pressure in the liver circulation using assessing the degree of liver scarring and changes in the liver blood flow. The technique is very patient friendly and can be performed using standard MRI scanners available widely in the NHS.
These scans can be done for outpatients, to pre-empt potential consequence of high blood pressure in liver circulation so that treatment can be carried out ahead of time. It can also help us monitor whether treatment is working or not. This MRI technique has a potential to transform care of patients with liver cirrhosis and accelerate the discovery and development of new treatments.
Find out more about Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases research at The University of Nottingham School of Medicine.
Posted on Wednesday 16th November 2016