Non-Invasive Medical Technology Addresses Growing Prevalence and Relationship Between Liver Disease and Heart Health

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By Jon Gingrich, CEO, Echosens North America

During February, American Heart Month, it’s important to highlight the growing prevalence and relationship between nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and heart health. About 100 million individuals in the United States are estimated to have NAFLD, and its prevalence has more than doubled over the past 20 years.

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Approximately 82.6 million people in the United States currently have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease, making it a leading cause of death for both men and women. A recent study suggests an epidemiological link between NAFLD and heart failure (HF) beyond shared risk factors. Among 870,535 Medicare patients, 3.2% had a clinical diagnosis of NAFLD. Over a mean 14.3 months of follow‐up, patients with baseline NAFLD had a significantly higher risk of new‐onset HF. 

Fortunately, a non-invasive test (NIT) at the point of care is quick and painless and takes less than 10 minutes to provide immediate results. The most promising NIT is powered by liver stiffness measurement assessed by vibration-controlled transient elastography (LSM by VCTE™), controlled attenuation parameter (CAP™) and spleen stiffness measurement (SSM by VCTE™).

Heart Health and Obesity

Among a general adult population, the presence of NAFLD and severe fibrosis, the formation of an abnormally large amount of scar tissue in the liver, is associated with a higher cardiovascular risk profile, pointing towards the need for specific preventive measures. The prevalence of fatty liver and of severe scar tissue on the liver in the study’s cohort group was 31.7% and 4.8%, respectively. 

Research also suggests that NAFLD is present in up to 75% of people who are overweight and in more than 90% of people who have severe obesity.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death among patients with NAFLD and evidence suggests that NAFLD is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Similar to NAFLD, HF is associated with high morbidity and mortality and has reached epidemic proportions. 

Total deaths among the NAFLD population are estimated at 1.27 million with 85% classified as general background, 12.8% as excess cardiovascular, and 2.2% (28,200 deaths) as excess liver‐related deaths. By 2030, total deaths are projected to increase 44% to 1.83 million deaths annually. 

How LSM by VCTE Technology Works

Studies show that detecting and monitoring liver disease using LSM by VCTE is a non-invasive, convenient and cost-effective way for clinicians to quantify the stiffness of liver tissue and estimate liver fat at the point of care.

LSM by VCTE combines standardization, clinical performance and accessibility for early patient identification and for advanced liver disease patient management, portal hypertension and HCC risk stratification.

The most effective LSM by VCTE tools are small and portable, making them easy to use in the office or outpatient setting. These tools produce numerous measurements, rather than images, for simplified interpretation and consistency of measurement. This enables clinicians to monitor changes in liver tissue over time and share data with the patient to demonstrate progress or prompt lifestyle changes. 

A recent study found that deploying VCTE™/CAP™ devices to screen and monitor liver stiffness and liver fat in members with diabetes can yield net savings to the payer, directly impacting bottom line performance. 

Monitoring Behavioral Change

Because liver disease can often be reversed with early diagnosis and intervention, it’s imperative that more clinicians adopt medical devices known as non-invasive tests (NITs) to help in the management of patients with liver diseases. 

The progression of liver disease is typically slow, giving patients the opportunity to be managed well by primary care physicians. For many patients, diet and exercise can make all the difference. In fact, a 3% reduction in body weight has been associated with reversal of fat in the liver, while a reduction of greater than 7% may resolve NASH in many patients. 

Healthcare providers seeking to adopt LSM by VCTE to help halt or reverse liver damage among at-risk patients should look for one that provides exam results to help monitor lifestyle modification. It should also offer consistent quantitative results to monitor FLD and provide feedback to patients about their diet and exercise modifications. It’s also important to choose a LSM by VCTE tool that integrates with electronic health records for automatic upload and storage of the exam results to save time, secure data and improve the patient’s follow-up. 

LSM by VCTE™ is an easily implemented tool for monitoring the impact of lifestyle changes on liver fat, providing early detection, monitoring, patient education and engagement around lifestyle changes that can play a valuable role in mitigating both heart and liver disease

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