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Medics' advice wanted--Alcohol induced liver disease Watch

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    I started drinking heavily when I first went to university just under six years ago. For the first three years I was drinking lots in term time, not so much during the vacations, and I didn't drink every day. Maybe 4 times a week term time and twice out of term.

    I didn't think I had a problem, and wasn't drinking much more than others. But when my friends left to work in the city and I stayed in academia, my drinking got out of hand. Again, I wasn't daily drinking, but I'd binge drink just sitting at my desk or before I went out to formals with people I wasn't familiar with.

    I soon realized I had a problem, and for the last 2 1/2 years tried to moderate in various ways and failed. At Christmas I went to my doctor as I'd noticed pains under the right rib, and was worried about my liver. She said I had an enlarged liver due to fatty infiltration, and that I should abstain from alcohol for three months and only then try to moderate if possible.

    I swore I'd never drink again, did three months, relapsed for a few weeks in April and the pains came back. I then did another two and a half months, the pains went, I went to the doctor and she said my enzymes were normal and my liver was pretty much back to its normal size, but that I still needed to keep off the booze.

    I've been doing a lot of reading on liver disease, and I'm worried I might have done damage to the structure of the liver. My GP said there was no evidence of hepatitis--such as jaundice, itching, bile issues--and that I was lucky to get the warning and to act early. I asked if I could have a liver biopsy, but she said that was not necessary.

    I asked about cirrhosis, and she said I'd been drinking neither long enough nor hard enough to be at significant risk, and that she doubts there is even minimal scarring of the organ. Obviously I've been stupid with my drinking, and I've really learnt my lesson. But I think that the reason she won't give me a liver biopsy is because she thinks I'll go back to drinking once I get the all clear.

    What exactly does a liver biopsy involve, how much would it cost to go private, and should I consider having one?
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    If I remember rightly you take a wacking great hollow needle, ram it through the liver, hoick it out, and have a peer down a microscope at it.

    No idea how much it would cost.
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    (Original post by terpineol)
    If I remember rightly you take a wacking great hollow needle, ram it through the liver, hoick it out, and have a peer down a microscope at it.

    No idea how much it would cost.
    Do you know if it's dangerous or whether I'd need a general anesthetic while it's being done?
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    £50 and I'll do it for you.
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    (Original post by bret)
    I started drinking heavily when I first went to university just under six years ago. For the first three years I was drinking lots in term time, not so much during the vacations, and I didn't drink every day. Maybe 4 times a week term time and twice out of term.

    I didn't think I had a problem, and wasn't drinking much more than others. But when my friends left to work in the city and I stayed in academia, my drinking got out of hand. Again, I wasn't daily drinking, but I'd binge drink just sitting at my desk or before I went out to formals with people I wasn't familiar with.

    I soon realized I had a problem, and for the last 2 1/2 years tried to moderate in various ways and failed. At Christmas I went to my doctor as I'd noticed pains under the right rib, and was worried about my liver. She said I had an enlarged liver due to fatty infiltration, and that I should abstain from alcohol for three months and only then try to moderate if possible.

    I swore I'd never drink again, did three months, relapsed for a few weeks in April and the pains came back. I then did another two and a half months, the pains went, I went to the doctor and she said my enzymes were normal and my liver was pretty much back to its normal size, but that I still needed to keep off the booze.

    I've been doing a lot of reading on liver disease, and I'm worried I might have done damage to the structure of the liver. My GP said there was no evidence of hepatitis--such as jaundice, itching, bile issues--and that I was lucky to get the warning and to act early. I asked if I could have a liver biopsy, but she said that was not necessary.

    I asked about cirrhosis, and she said I'd been drinking neither long enough nor hard enough to be at significant risk, and that she doubts there is even minimal scarring of the organ. Obviously I've been stupid with my drinking, and I've really learnt my lesson. But I think that the reason she won't give me a liver biopsy is because she thinks I'll go back to drinking once I get the all clear.

    What exactly does a liver biopsy involve, how much would it cost to go private, and should I consider having one?
    The liver biopsy cannot give you an all clear. It will take a sample from one superficial bit of liver. It does nothing to say how damaged the rest of your liver is. Neither due blood tests.
    It also will give no indication of the damage to your heart.

    Just stay off the booze. You have a problem which has been identified and treated. Stop looking for a quick fix.

    And by the by, even if cirrhosis was found. Or fatty infiltration, there would be nothing they would do. Not yet anyway
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    (Original post by Jamie)
    The liver biopsy cannot give you an all clear. It will take a sample from one superficial bit of liver. It does nothing to say how damaged the rest of your liver is. Neither due blood tests.
    It also will give no indication of the damage to your heart.

    Just stay off the booze. You have a problem which has been identified and treated. Stop looking for a quick fix.

    And by the by, even if cirrhosis was found. Or fatty infiltration, there would be nothing they would do. Not yet anyway
    Ok, well I've already been diagnosed with fatty liver, and the doctor said just to stay off the booze and it would resolve within 4-6 weeks of abstinence. And it has.

    The attitude I got from the GP seemed to suggest that I was a hypochondriac. I asked her about the biopsy, and within a few sentences of her saying I didn’t need one and there was no evidence of inflammation, she spoke about alcoholics who were on 600 units a week, crying with the DTs and vomiting two days into withdrawal and stuff. I just got the impression she was saying “Don’t be such a baby.” What do you think the purpose of this comparison was?
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    Without wishing to doubt their professionalism, GPs are known for being one of the heaviest drinking groups themselves. I'd get a second opinion.
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    (Original post by Dionysus)
    Without wishing to doubt their professionalism, GPs are known for being one of the heaviest drinking groups themselves. I'd get a second opinion.
    She said in no uncertain terms that I had to give up drinking for at least three months, and after that I must stick rigidly to government guidelines (i.e.: 21 units a week, 4 units max a day, 48 hours if daily limit exceeded etc.) So there was no, "well, a few glasses of scotch won't hurt". She even told me that while not being alcohol dependent, my drinking experience might make a return to normal drinking impossible, so I dont think she was giving me an easy ride.
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    (Original post by Dionysus)
    Without wishing to doubt their professionalism, GPs are known for being one of the heaviest drinking groups themselves. I'd get a second opinion.
    on what grounds?
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    (Original post by Dionysus)
    Without wishing to doubt their professionalism, GPs are known for being one of the heaviest drinking groups themselves. I'd get a second opinion.

    :eyeball:

    I doubt my lovely 37yr old gp, with 3 kids, and sandy blonde hair who wears a cross and big flowy skirts...with hairstyle stuck in th 90's is going out binge drinking every week lol
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    At least you have actually seen the error of your ways and corrected them.

    The liver has an amazing feature of regenerating so the damage may be minimal if at all.

    As for a liver biopsy, you have to be refered by a doctor to a private clinic in the first place, and then i suspect they will actually say to you that it is no necessecery. Just watch out and keep an eye if you are worried about your health. Take this is being lucky and you know you can no longer do what you were.
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    OK, so there's no chance of a liver biopsy on the NHS? I'm not presenting with any symptoms of hepatitis or cirrhosis.

    Seeing the pictures of that 22 year old lad the other week, yellow and denied a liver transplant, made me realize my decision to quit drinking was the best one I've ever made.
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    What would you do if you got the results saying your liver had been damaged? Stop drinking.

    What would you do if you got the results saying your liver hadn't been damaged? If the answer is any different, you're an idiot.

    So what's the point of having the test?
 
 
 
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