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What you need to know about fatty liver disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the second most common reason for liver cancer, according to Dr. Ahmed Hasan, a gastroenterologist at Lehigh Gastroenterology Associates in Lehighton.

Some NAFLD patients will develop elevated liver enzymes, which indicates that there is inflammation in the liver. This inflammation can cause fibrosis, which can develop into cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In an effort to cut off the disease before it can become worse, Hasan has started a weight loss program at his medical practice, because weight loss is the only way to reduce NAFLD.

For his patients who do have elevated liver enzymes and more extensive liver damage, Hasan works with Dr. Kenneth Rothstein, a gastroenterologist at Penn Medicine, a hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He is director of regional outreach and regional hepatology, as well as a professor of clinical medicine. Rothstein travels up to Lehighton once a month to see patients. If a liver transplant is needed, then the surgery is done in Philadelphia.

Rothstein said most liver transplants are through living donors, because liver transplants are no longer at the top of the transplant list. For those who do get a transplant, the prognosis is very good.

“They are likely to live 35 years,” he said with the transplant.

The donor needs to be in good health condition, not diabetic or overweight, and cannot be over 50 years old. And he or she cannot have NAFLD, because healthy livers will take in the transplant whereas fatty livers are not usually successful.

Rothstein said that by helping people to lose weight, “We save a lot of lives.”

Dr. Kenneth Rothstein