Fatty liver disease is a serious condition caused by stress placed on the liver from excess body weight. People with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high lipids are at high risk of developing fatty liver disease. Currently, weight loss of 7 to 10% has been shown to be the most effective way of improving fatty liver disease. Patients in our program lose weight safely and effectively through a combination of medications, endoscopic weight loss, bariatric surgery, and therapies.
The Yale Medicine Fatty Liver Disease program provides a comprehensive suite of services to help manage the condition. These include:
Medications: At Yale, many clinical trials are underway to test the ability of new drugs to treat fatty liver disease. Drugs under development seek to reverse the increased fat in liver cells (and the resulting inflammation and scarring), as well as the increased risk of liver cancer.
Medical Weight Loss: Most weight loss medications are tablets that work by reducing appetite. Other medications mimic hormones that the body makes, and improve the body’s ability to manage extra calories.
We also offer the OPTIFAST® program, which is a medically monitored weight management program that allows the patient, under the supervision of a physician, to consume a low-calorie diet and receive comprehensive lifestyle education.
The typical OPTIFAST patient loses between 30 to 60 pounds in 18 to 24 weeks, and experiences a healthy decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Additionally, in clinical studies of the OPTIFAST program, about half of the people assessed had maintained enough weight loss for five years to improve their long-term health.
Bariatric Surgery: Bariatric surgery is the most effective way to treat fatty liver disease, with improvement in approximately 90% of patients. Bariatric surgery can improve hepatic fibrosis and may reduce the risk of liver cancer. If patients have a body mass index (BMI) above 35, and they have fatty liver disease, they may qualify for bariatric surgery.
Patients who are referred to our program will first undergo blood tests and imaging to determine whether or not they have NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) or NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). Once the diagnosis has been made, we will determine how serious the condition is, which helps our team develop a personalized treatment plan. We take a comprehensive approach to managing fatty liver disease—from medications to bariatric surgery—and refer severe cases to the liver cancer tumor board, if necessary.