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A Brief Introduction To FibroScan Test Or Elastography

Liver Fibroscan Test

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Fibroscan test

With the advancement of medical technology, many tests and scans have managed to change the understanding of certain medical conditions by the medical community. These technical tests figure out the root cause of the problem. They simply probe a little deeper to establish a different angle for treatment. Liver fibrosis is a medical condition where the patient may develop fibrosis in the liver and can only be detected and confirmed with a Fibroscan Test

Liver fibrosis is a health condition where the liver has trouble managing the regular blood flow. It causes the healthy tissues in the liver to become scarred. Naturally, the scar tissues do not work well. As they build up, the patient enters the first stage of fibrosis. If the fibrosis remains undetected in the initial stages, it has an evident risk of developing liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. 

In the case of liver fibrosis, conducting a liver fibroscan test as early as possible is crucial to start a diagnosis. Once damaged, research has shown that the human liver usually does not heal. Hence, immediate diagnosis is essential for keeping the condition in check and reducing the chances of fibrosis worsening. The liver fibroscan test is also known as elastography or liver elastography. 


Types Of Liver Elastography Or Liver Fibrosis Test

There are predominantly two types of liver fibroscan tests. One consists of ultrasound technology while the other combines ultrasound with MRI. The machine that doctors use in ultrasound elastography is named Fibroscan. One always refers to the test name in this instance. The ultrasound machine uses sound waves to look for stiffness within the liver tissue. It is a good enough indication of fibrosis. 

On the other hand, the MRE or Magnetic Resonance Elastography is a test procedure that merges ultrasound techniques with the powerful magnet and radio waves used in collecting MRI images. Doctors utilize another invasive way, biopsy, to detect liver fibrosis. As this method directly meddles with the fibrosis by extracting bits from it for testing purposes, biopsies are not advised initially, which is why liver elastography has more value even though the fibroscan test cost may differ from place to place. 

Symptoms & Causes Of Liver Fibrosis & When To Get A Fibroscan Test

Fibrosis is a condition that develops over time and has a long process before it can start forming scarred tissues. Fibrosis requires a damage trigger, for instance, an injury or inflammation. When an injury or an inflammation occurs in the liver, it activates the liver cells to stimulate wound healing. As the healing process commences, it builds up protein excess, namely collagen, and glycoprotein, that repairs the liver cell gradually. 

The liver cells or hepatocytes can only repair themselves so often, but over time it loses their ability to repair, leading to the excess protein piling up, unused. This protein goes on to form scar tissues or fibrosis in the liver, and it is best to get a Fibroscan Test to know the exact condition and decide on the future direction for treatment. 

There are a handful of liver diseases that may come with a risk of later turning into fibrosis. Some of these conditions include biliary obstruction, iron overload, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, viral hepatitis B and C, and two specific variants of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 

For patients and doctors, it is often hard to notice the symptoms of liver fibrosis. If one leaves it untreated, it has the risk of developing cirrhosis. As liver fibrosis doesn’t give off any signs, earlier detection of fibrosis is relatively low, and a liver fibroscan test is mainly conducted when the liver has been significantly damaged. 

It is only when the condition has worsened, that the symptoms of liver fibrosis or liver damage start showing off. At this point, they may experience appetite loss, nausea, jaundice, weakness, unexplainable weight loss, fluid build-up in the legs or the stomach, and trouble thinking clearly. 

The Process For A FibroScan Test

You do not require any special preparation for the process of ultrasound elastography. However, for the MRE procedure, the drill is similar to an MRI process. The patient has to take off any metal ornament or object they carry with them. We will first discuss the process for ultrasound elastography in the following section. 

-For the ultrasound, the doctors ask the patient to lie on a bed and only expose their abdomen. 

-The technician will apply a gel substance over the abdomen skin. 

-The technician will then place a transducer device and move it around the whole abdomen. 

-This transducer sends high-pitched sound waves inaudible to the human ear, inside the abdomen, which will travel to the liver and bounce back. 

-The machine records the sound waves and measure it on the monitor to understand the level of stiffness present in the liver. 

Another type of Fibroscan Test, known as the MRE (Magnetic Resonance Elastography), follows a different method from ultrasound elastography. It uses a traditional MRI machine, following the conventional steps to conduct the whole test. 

-The patient has to lie still on a narrow bed or examination table. 

-The technician attaches a small pad to the patient’s abdomen. It passes vibrations down the patient’s body. 

-Then the examiner places this table inside the MRI scanner machine, with the patient lying still in the middle. 

-Afterthat, the examiner activates the pad inside the machine, and on activation, it will start sending vibrations and recording images and measurements onto the computer. 

For the MRE scan, the patient may be provided with an earplug or headphones to cover their ears during the scan. The MRI machine is known for its sound, especially a swooshing sound, even when conducting a liver fibroscan test

How long does a liver FibroScan take? 

Liver Fibroscan involves different types of tests and processes, and each procedure has a different time frame. The ultrasound elastography procedure typically takes about 5-10 minutes to finish the test. However, the duration for the entire appointment may be at least 30 minutes or even more based on the facility. 

On the other hand, MRE (Magnetic Resonance Elastography) is a bit lengthy process when one compare it to the previous one in terms of time. An MRE takes about 30-60 minutes. 

Is FibroScan painful?

Different types of Fibroscan tests are available for testing the condition of patients, and each has a different approach. However, the ultrasound elastography and the MRE procedures we have talked about so far are not merely painful. The gel and the tickling sensation during an ultrasound or the loud sounds produced by the MRI machine during the MRE scan can be discomforting for some. Yet, one cannot account for it as a painful experience. 

Again, the ultrasound elastography test has no harmful effects. However, doctors link some risks to MRE, as a liver fibroscan test is primarily based on panic. MREs are not a good option for people with metal implants and pregnant women. The elastography test measures the stiffness in the liver. More stiffness indicates fibrosis, and an advanced case may require additional tests like biopsy. 

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