Liver plays an important function in our bodies- it is a vital organ linked to all other organs. Good liver function is essential to a healthier body. So to take care of our liver specifically and our body in general, a hepatologist is a must-have physician.
What is hepatology?
Hepatology is the study of liver, gallbladder, pancreas and biliary ducts, they help maintain the normality of these organs and manage any flared up issues.Though just a sub-specialty in gastroenterology, it’s becoming more and more recognised, thanks to the further understanding of treatment and study of the liver.
In the U.S there are over 1.8% of adults battling with some kind of liver disease. The increasing degeneration of liver function at this alarming stage calls for a profession that could properly take care of this crucial organ.
What is a hepatologist?
Hepatologists are medical doctors who treat, diagnose and manage problems related to liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas. Hepatologist treats conditions such as, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease and most commonly, hepatitis.
Any genaral physician could refer patients to a hepatologist for a variety of symptoms. A patient with signs like:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding from portal hypertension
- Enzyme defects
- Diseases in the biliary tree
- Fever resulted from tropical diseases such as hydatid cyst, kala-azar or schistosomiasis
Beside these listed diseases and symptoms, they could also treat hemochromatosis or pancreatitis or conduct follow up for patients post liver transplant operation.
A hepatologist duties
Hepatologists will support any cases when it comes to the liver, whether its alcohol- related liver damage, hepatitis or liver cancer, they’d be in charge of this patient. They will identify the damaged liver part to then diagnose and come up with the best treatment plan for patients. Hepatologist will also treat the biliary system, including gallstones and pancreas inflammation. They won’t be the person who handles the transplants operation, but will provide patients with adequate pre and post-op care.
Becoming a hepatologist will require going through medical school and completing the whole process of advance training. This will involve completing 4 years of medical school to earn the Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), then they’d have to undergo another 3 year residency session, where they’ll get to experience hands-on, working under a senior physician.
After this, they’ll be eligible to attend the certification exam accredited by the Board of Internal Medicine and be able to further the practice in gastroenterology. A three-year fellowship or a three-year joint in the related specialty such as gastroenterology and another in transplant hepatology will then be needed to then be fully able to practice alone.
A recent report has said to have estimated only 1000 in the US, with the ratio of patients to physicians of 1 to 330,000 individuals. So, according to these statistics the demand for hepatologists is on the rise and definitely in need for more staff. Moreover, the salary of a hepatologist is also very high. On average, a hepatologist could earn up to $340,000 per year, extremely rewarding.
Liver disease is very common in the developed countries, due to the unhealthy lifestyles and the rapid aging population. The state of the current hepatology workforce and the future demand is extremely low, which is a great chance for you to join since it would mean less competition, and yet the earning is still very fruitful. Additionally, if you’d like to work in a less severe environment, you can always choose a profession like family doctor.