Ultrasound Liver Elastography

Getting Ultrasound Liver Elastography: What to Expect and How to Prepare

An “elastography” is a diagnostic test used to evaluate the “elasticity” of organs in the body. An Ultrasound Liver Elastography is a noninvasive diagnostic test that leverages ultrasound technology to evaluate the liver’s elasticity and stiffness. This scan helps healthcare providers diagnose and treat all types of liver-related conditions.

In specific, it helps them determine the extent of scar tissue present in patients’ livers. A diseased or injured liver will grow large amounts of scar tissue as a response to the damage. This procedure is known as “liver fibrosis” and it is the liver’s attempt to re-grow lost cells. However, if left unchecked, it can worsen the liver’s condition and cause severe cirrhosis.

An Ultrasound Liver Elastography will accurately reveal the amount and extent of scarring in the liver. Doctors use this info to create more acute treatment plans. Ultrasound Liver Elastography is performed using FibroScan, a handheld device (transducer) that delivers sound waves to the liver. If the liver is healthy and elastic, the sound waves will bounce back quickly.

If not, they will take longer to bounce back. The results of Ultrasound Liver Elastography are presented in a measurement called “kilopascals” (kPa). This measurement denotes the stiffness of the liver. It also reveals the extent of the patient’s liver damage.

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Since all major liver diseases result in the stiffening of the liver, FibroScan is helpful in diagnosing a long list of conditions, including:

  • Patients with chronic liver disease like autoimmune liver disease, chronic hepatitis B/C, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and alcoholic liver disease.
  • Patients who’ve had liver biopsies in the past and cannot be candidates for more biopsies.
  • Patients who are taking strong anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs, and other medications that can inflame the liver.
  • Patients who have a long family history of chronic liver disease and liver cancer.

Anyone afflicted with the condition/s mentioned above can be advised by their doctors to get an Ultrasound Liver Elastography scan. Liver patients who are hesitant to get liver biopsies and who are short on time stand to benefit the most from this needle and incision-free diagnostic procedure. Here’s what they can expect from these scans. 

What Happens During an Ultrasound Liver Elastography Scan?

The Ultrasound Liver Elastography procedure is non-invasive and takes only about 10 minutes. Professional radiologists will perform the scan. They’ll determine the elastography results 2-3 days after the scan as well. Here’s what happens at these scans:

  • You will be made to lie on your back on an examination table.
  • The radiologist will apply gel to your abdomen.
  • The radiologist will attach an ultrasound probe to your skin.
  • This probe will deliver ultrasound waves through your liver.
  • The speed of the waves will be measured on the FibroScan device.

In ten comfortable and pain-free minutes, the process will be complete!

How to Prepare for Ultrasound Liver Elastography?

Listen to your health provider’s advice regarding what to eat and wear before the scan. These scans don’t require sedation and there’s no recovery time either. You can drive back home minutes after this 5-10-minute scan is over! 

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