New software is set to help clinicians better measure the amount of fat on patients’ livers – enhancing early detection of potentially life-threatening conditions.

The addition of the new technology to Fibroscan machines at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness will help gastroenterologists make an earlier diagnosis of patients susceptible to ‘fatty liver disease’, which is related to obesity and type 2 diabetes, the second most common cause of liver disease in Scotland, which is on the increase.

Thanks to a £14,750 donation from the Friends of Raigmore, the liver specialists at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness can now measure the amount of fat in a patient’s liver using a simple non-invasive test.

Specialists use a Fibroscan™ machine to check for scarring caused by a number of conditions including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, chronic viral hepatitis and excess alcohol intake.

The new CAP (controlled attenuation parameter) software that has been added to the Fibroscan allows the team to measure the percentage of fat in the liver, even when it is below 30%, the level at which ultrasound is unable to do so. The more fat in the liver, the greater the risk of developing non-alcoholic steaohepatitis, which can lead to the development of cirrhosis and its associated complications as well as a greater risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Dr Andrea Broad, consultant gastroenterologist for NHS Highland, said: “This software allows early detection of steatosis, also known as fatty liver, which would never be detected on ultrasound. The CAP reading isn’t influenced by liver inflammation whereas fibroscan results are. CAP allows us to identify patients who are high risk and enables us to assess patients post hepatitis C treatment, offering valuable information regarding the type of surveillance they require.

“It is also a useful tool for us to use when educating patients on non alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is fast becoming the most prevalent type of liver disease. Patients work well with a scoring system, and when they adhere to advised lifestyle changes such as weight loss, they feel rewarded when their result demonstrates a reduction.

“It is easy to use, non invasive and we can give patients an immediate result. It allows an early opportunity to offer advice on how to self manage their fatty liver disease before it turns into something much more significant.”

Dr Broad added: “It’s a fantastic addition to the department and we are incredibly grateful to the Friends for this donation.”

Christina Cameron, Chair of the Friends of Raigmore, said: “We’re so pleased to have been able to hand over this software and to hear about how it will benefit the department and patients in Highland. We are an entirely voluntary group and without our team of dedicated volunteers we would not have reached this wonderful target.

“Apart from our public liability insurance, every penny raised in our Raigmore Hospital shop goes towards our fundraising and we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported this project, by either donating or purchasing from the shop.

“As a group, we’ve had so much backing which allows us to support the hospital in ways which benefit patients.”