Cirrhosis of the liver is a life-threatening disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced by extensive scar tissue and nodules that reduce blood flow to the liver and impair liver function. Since the liver is the body’s largest internal organ and performs numerous vital functions — such as filtering toxins from the blood and storing vitamins and minerals, among other tasks — any disease that keeps your liver from doing its job properly can have damaging effects on the rest of your body. The liver specialists at the NewYork-Presbyterian are among the best in the nation and have extensive expertise caring for people with cirrhosis. The earlier cirrhosis is diagnosed, the sooner its progression can be stopped.
A Team of Liver Disease Specialists
Your care team includes hepatologists (liver specialists), gastroenterologists, liver surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, registered dietitians, social workers, and others with experience caring for people with cirrhosis and other liver diseases. Alcohol abuse is a common cause of cirrhosis, but other diseases can cause liver scarring, too, such as viral hepatitis (hepatitis B or C), autoimmune hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or bile duct disease. If you have another disease causing your cirrhosis, we can connect you with the experts needed to treat that illness all at one medical center.
Our doctors perform a full assessment to determine if you have cirrhosis, including a full medical history and physical examination. We also offer:
- Lab testing to check for liver injury
- Fibroscan® (a special ultrasound that helps determine the amount of scarring in the liver)
- Liver biopsy (examination of a small amount of liver tissue removed through a long needle inserted into your liver through your skin)
- Endoscopic Ultrasound or Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiography (x-ray examination of your bile ducts)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) with elastography (MRE) to assess for fibrosis
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
All of these tests are available at NewYork-Presbyterian.
Treatment to Stop Cirrhosis from Getting Worse
The liver scarring caused by cirrhosis may be permanent, and there are steps you can take to keep it from getting worse. Our liver disease team has extensive experience applying the latest medications and techniques to manage cirrhosis proactively, and we are conducting basic and clinical research to address complications and reduce the need for liver transplant.
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs. If you consume alcohol, we can advise you about how to stop drinking. It is also important for you to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements that you may be taking (including herbal or over the counter medicines) since some of them can make cirrhosis worse. With a healthy diet (guided by our registered dietitians), vitamin supplements, and avoiding certain drugs and alcohol, we can help prevent your cirrhosis from progressing.
- Treating the underlying cause. If your cirrhosis is due to hepatitis, we can prescribe antiviral drugs for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, immune suppressing medications, for autoimmune hepatitis and other medications for most underlying liver diseases.
Liver Transplantation for Cirrhosis
If you have cirrhosis that becomes severe and life-threatening, you may need a liver transplant. At NewYork-Presbyterian, you are ten times more likely to receive a liver transplant than at other hospitals in the region, with an average wait time of just nine months. Our surgeons have performed more than 2,000 liver transplants, with outcomes that meet or surpass national averages. They use a variety of liver transplant approaches, including living donor liver transplantation, to extend the limits of organ transplantation and provide the greatest number of transplants possible.
Clinical Trials of New Cirrhosis Therapies
With no cure available for cirrhosis other than replacing the liver, NewYork-Presbyterian’s researchers are conducting studies of new ways to treat this disease and novel therapies for its complications. You may have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial of a promising new approach.