New Blood Test Detects Alcohol-Related Liver Diseases

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Published: 01st November 2012
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Alcohol is relatively harmless when consumed in small doses, but those who drink a higher than recommended amount of alcohol are at-risk of developing a number of serious liver conditions. In the past, these liver conditions were difficult to detect before it was too late, and many patients with liver disease did not survive longer than a few months.

In fact, many liver problems are not diagnosed until after the liver fails, at which point itís too late to administer many kinds of treatment. Patients who are hospitalized with end-stage liver disease generally do not survive for long, and approximately one-third of these patients will die within several months of being hospitalized.

Fortunately, recent blood test technology is helping doctors recognize liver problems before itís too late. Itís called the Southampton Traffic Light Test, and itís changing the way physicians approach liver disease.

What is the Southampton Traffic Light Test?

The Southampton Traffic Light test (STL), uses a number of different blood tests to determine if patients have liver problems. Itís called the Southampton test because it was developed by researchers at the University of Southampton in England, and the Ďtraffic lightí part of the name comes from the color-coded system that the test outputs.

So far, STL test appears to diagnose liver disease more accurately than any other test available today. Although the test is currently in development, physicians should have access to the test shortly. The results of the STL test study were recently published in the British Journal of General Practice.†

The new blood test labels patients one of three colors according to their risk of developing serious liver conditions:

Red: ĎRedí patients generally have liver scarring (fibrosis), and there is a chance of cirrhosis. These patients are in a high-risk group of developing liver disease at some point within the next five years.

Amber/Yellow: These patients have a 50% risk of liver scarring, and they have a relatively high likelihood of dying of liver disease within the next five years. The good news for patients who receive an ĎAmberí on the test is that, by ceasing alcohol consumption immediately, liver damage can be halted as soon as possible.

Green: Green means that no cirrhosis was detected during a blood test, and that the patient has a fairly normal risk of dying of liver disease within the next five years.

The study was performed over a period of five years on 1,000 participants. Using death rates among participants, the researchers were able to determine what each color coding meant in terms of the risk of liver failure.

How to get a blood test

If youíre ready to take a blood test to determine whether or not you have alcohol-related liver disease, talk to your physician today. A blood test can detect health problems before they become serious, and getting one today can give you peace of mind.

Remember: certain people are at a higher risk of liver disease than others. Those who have type 2 diabetes are at a high risk of liver disease, as are obese people and heavy drinkers. If you fall into any of these groups, then you should be receiving blood tests on a regular basis to ensure your liver is functioning properly. †

For non-life threatening medical care in the Atlanta area, visit one of WellStreet Urgent Careís numerous locations throughout the city. WellStreet recently opened urgent care Johns Creek and urgent care Alpharetta facilities to service the needs of patients in the North Atlanta area.


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