Liver Care

If you have a liver condition, trust your care to Essentia's liver health experts. The liver performs many essential functions related to digestion, metabolism, immunity, and the storage of nutrients within the body. Liver diseases, like hepatitis, cancer or cirrhosis, can be inherited or caused by a variety of factors, such as viruses, alcohol use or obesity.

When to See a Specialist

You should see a liver care doctor if a routine blood test shows higher-than-normal liver enzymes, and the enzymes don’t return to normal in six months. Other symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding or easy bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellow coloring to the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Nausea
  • Swelling

TeleVideo Exam

Depending on your condition and location, you may talk to a liver care doctor via a TeleVideo Exam. More Information

Conditions Treated

See the full list of conditions we treat, and select a condition to find providers and locations near you.

Conditions

Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus . There are five main types of hepatitis—A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis B and C are common causes of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Essentia liver care doctors frequently treat Hepatitis B and C.

Liver Transplants

While Essentia does not perform liver transplants, we work with specialists from the University of Minnesota Health and the Mayo Clinic who travel to Duluth, Minnesota, to see patients on a monthly basis.

Essentia gastroenterologists help manage liver patients to prepare them for transplant. After a liver transplant we will monitor your health and provide follow-up care to ensure you remain healthy.

Liver Biopsies

A liver biopsy involves removing a small piece of liver tissue that can then be looked at under a microscope. We also have a Fibroscan technology that can often give similar information about liver health but does not require a biopsy. This technique uses sound waves to measure the stiffness of your liver. This test is fast, easy, and painless which means you can resume your daily activities immediately.

Portal Hypertension Treatment

When the liver is damaged, pressure can build up in veins that normally flow into the liver. This can lead to severe bleeding. This can also lead to fluid, called ascites, building up in the abdomen or chest cavity. Essentia physicians are trained and prepared to manage and help prevent these complications of liver failure.

TIPS Procedure

When your liver is very damaged, blood flow may slow and put pressure on your veins. This can cause bleeding from large veins or a buildup of fluid in your belly. Essentia offers a minimally invasive treatment called Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Shunt (TIPS) to treat these conditions.

During TIPS, a thin wire is inserted into a vein in your neck and threaded down to your liver. The wire carries a tiny metal, mesh tube called a stent which is then placed in the blocked vein. The stent holds the vein open which allows better blood flow to your liver and relieves pressure on other blood vessels.

Because this treatment is minimally invasive, you’ll recover faster and feel less pain than you would after surgery.

Liver Cancer Treatment

If you have small cancer tumors in your liver and don’t qualify for traditional surgery, you may benefit from a minimally invasive procedure performed by an interventional radiologist or oncologist. These specialists use image guidance to send a needle, probe, or medicine directly to tumors. This type of treatment avoids healthy tissue, which means you experience fewer side effects.

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Ablation – Uses heat to destroy cancer cells
  • Chemoembolization – Injects drugs that fight cancer into the blood vessel feeding the tumor
  • Cryosurgery – Freezes and kill cancer cells
  • TheraSphere – Treats liver cancer with a tiny amount of radioactive substances

Medical Insight: Therasphere Video Transcript

(DESCRIPTION)
The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Essentia Health. Medical Insight.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

(DESCRIPTION)
The host, Tracy Briggs, speaks to the camera from an examination room.

(SPEECH)
TRACY BRIGGS: In the world of medicine, perhaps no specialty comes closer to science fiction than interventional radiology. Interventional radiologists sometimes perform procedures that seem downright futuristic. And one such procedure they're performing here at a Essentia Health is not only pretty incredible, it's pretty effective in treating a very serious disease.

(DESCRIPTION)
A doctor circles a diseased portion with her finger on a film board.

(SPEECH)
According to the Centers for Disease Control, liver cancer is among the most deadly forms of the disease. Now interventional radiologists, such as Dr. Richard Coursey, are suiting up to combat it. They're performing a therapy called "TheraSphere. " Basically, Dr. Coursey injects microscopic radioactive beads into the bloodstream, leading to the tumor. Once there, the beads get stuck inside the tumor, cutting off the blood supply which feeds it.

(DESCRIPTION)
Dr. Richard Coursey, Junior, interventional radiologist, speaks to the camera.

(SPEECH)
RICHARD COURSEY: Rather than having multiple radiation therapies where you lay on a table and beams are shot into you, this is actually an internal radiation, where you preferentially kill tumors.

(DESCRIPTION)
Tracy Briggs sits across from Dr. Coursey in his office, as he displays and explains a vial of clear substance.

(SPEECH)
TRACY BRIGGS: Dr. Coursey says patients often experience fewer side effects than with more traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. RICHARD COURSEY: Because the liver doesn't really respond so great to high dose radiation that patients would traditionally get with external-beam radiation, like a radiation oncologist, would provide, they do much better with this. It kind of minimizes what people normally think of as some side-effects of radiation therapy.

(DESCRIPTION)
A patient lies draped on an examination table, preparing for radiation therapy.

(SPEECH)
TRACY BRIGGS: And the results are pretty clear for both patients with liver-cancer tumors which start in the liver, and for those which start in other parts of the body and spread to the liver. You can clearly see how this patient's liver tumors have shrunk from before treatment on the left to after treatment on the right.

(DESCRIPTION)
A doctor examines two films side-by-side, showing the difference in the tumor's size.

(SPEECH)
He says it's more complicated when patients have underlying liver disease, such as cirrhosis, but TheraSphere is a viable alternative.

(DESCRIPTION)
Close-up of the name stitched to Dr. Coursey's white coat, reading, Richard Coursey, Junior, M. D. , Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

(SPEECH)
RICHARD COURSEY: We find, in general, that patients who aren't surgical candidates, who are outside a criteria for surgery, who chemotherapy hasn't worked for in the past, or who have failed radiation therapy, a lot of times, still qualify for some interventional oncology procedures which would increase quality of life.

(SPEECH)
TRACY BRIGGS: The outcome of the procedure is dependent largely upon when the patient gets it done. In the earliest stages, it can actually be curative. Later on, it can be helpful in keeping the disease in check. And with advanced-liver disease, it can help with pain management.

(SPEECH)
For this Essentia Health medical insight, I'm Tracy Briggs.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

(DESCRIPTION)
The Essentia Health logo appears, consisting of three leaves in a circle. Text, Medical Insight.

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You’ll need a referral from your primary care provider or a specialist for this service.

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