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Cirrhosis

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Cirrhosis of the liver is a gastrointestinal disease that is an irreversible, advanced form of chronic liver disease. To prevent cirrhosis, it is important to catch the development of scar tissue early. Let the specialists in complex digestive disorders at Houston Methodist Linda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders diagnose your symptoms early to put you on a path to recovery.

 

Medications, viral infections, genetic and inherited disorders, metabolic syndrome, and alcohol abuse are just some of the things that can cause damage to the liver. Over years of ongoing insult, the liver responds to this damage by replacing healthy liver cells with scar tissue. Once this scar tissue becomes advanced, it becomes irreversible, and complications of liver disease can develop. It is important to see a hepatologist who specializes in the diagnosis of liver disease to catch this disease process early.

Specialized Experience in Liver Patient Treatment

Our team of medical professionals performs about 150 liver transplants every year, giving another chance at life to our patients with advanced liver disease. Our multidisciplinary critical care and posttransplant teams include hepatologists, surgeons, pathologists, interventional radiologists, nurses, dietitians and social workers. We guide you from initial examination through the transplant surgery and post operative clinic follow-up. 

 

In partnership with the Sherrie and Alan Conover Center for Liver Disease & Transplantation at Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center, we provide a dedicated inpatient floor and a surgical liver ICU.

 

U.S. News & World Report has named Houston Methodist Hospital the Best Hospital in Texas for 12 years in a row. Houston Methodist is the No. 1 hospital in Texas (in a two-way tie) and is nationally ranked in 10 specialties.

State-of-the-Art Clinical Tests & Equipment

Diagnosis of end-stage liver disease is made using a combination of blood work and imaging tests including ultrasound, CT scans or MRI. In some cases, a liver biopsy is performed. Our hepatologists work with each patient to design a patient-centered plan as to which test is most helpful to reach a diagnosis. 

 

If the diagnosis of cirrhosis is made, our hepatologists will discuss your MELD (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) score. This score evaluates the degree of liver dysfunction based on lab parameters and is an important tool to assess the urgency and need for liver transplantation.

Cirrhosis-Related Conditions We Treat

When liver disease is suspected, a comprehensive workup is needed.  Our clinicians will take blood tests to check for conditions, including:

  • Ascites – fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding – this is a life-threatening emergency
  • Hepatic encephalopathy – caused by accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream
  • Infections
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and/or eyes
  • Liver cancer

Cirrhosis Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Can I get cirrhosis if I don’t drink alcohol?

Yes, you can. Fatty liver disease and overuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can lead to cirrhosis.

What symptoms should I look out for?

What symptoms should I look out for?

 

In early liver disease you may not have any symptoms at all. This makes it imperative to continue to obtain regular medical care. When liver disease becomes advanced, certain symptoms may develop, ranging from mild to severe. Timely treatment of the condition limits further complications and can greatly improve your quality of life. Certain symptoms may include:

  • Bright red or black tarry stools
  • Fatigue 
  • Jaundice – yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Mental status or memory changes 
  • Prominent red blood vessels on your skin
  • Redness of your palms
  • Swelling in the abdomen, legs or ankles

How is cirrhosis treated?

Your doctor will determine the cause of your cirrhosis and recommend a treatment plan. If you have enough healthy tissue to replace the scarred tissue in your liver, he or she will recommend one or more of the following:

  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Eat a low sodium diet
  • Eat a high-protein, high-calorie diet
  • Exercise
  • Get vaccinated for the flu, pneumonia, COVID-19 and hepatitis A and B
  • Keep all doctor appointments
  • Practice good hygiene and wash your hands often
  • Take medications if you have hepatitis B or C
  • Take medicine if you have bowel dysfunction
  • Take water pills

How do I receive advanced care or a second opinion?

We understand the concerns that come with the diagnosis of cirrhosis. Whether you are looking for a diagnosis or a second opinion, we’re here to help. Houston Methodist’s compassionate team of gastroenterologists will diagnose your condition and design a personalized treatment plan that works for you and your family.

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