Liver Conditions & Treatments

At the University of Chicago, our hepatology program targets a broad spectrum of liver-related diseases. Our hepatologists have expertise in the following, and more:

Viral Hepatitis
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Liver Cancer
Cholestatic Liver Disease
Fatty Liver Disease
Genetic Liver Diseases
Autoimmune Liver Diseases
Drug-Induced Liver Injury
Liver Transplant

Viral Hepatitis

Our hepatitis treatment program is headed by one of the world’s leading authorities on hepatitis C. Treatment for viral hepatitis typically involves weekly self-injections of pegylated interferon to stimulate the body’s immune system, along with medications taken orally. Treatment may extend for up to a year or longer. Our team’s physician assistant partners with patients throughout their entire course of treatment to help them through issues during their treatment.

Many patients with hepatitis come to the University of Chicago medical campus for advanced intervention after more conventional treatments did not achieve desired results or because their disease has relapsed. As an alternative to standard therapies, the Center for Liver Diseases offers clinical trials of the newest investigational treatments for viral hepatitis. Clinical trials are carefully monitored for safety and effectiveness.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Treatment for alcohol-related liver disease--including alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver disease, and alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver--is aimed at maintaining abstinence from alcohol. Liver Center hepatologists partner with University of Chicago specialists in addiction medicine to offer each patient a comprehensive, personalized approach to care. Because of the liver’s unique ability to regenerate, much damage to the organ can be reversed when alcohol ingestion stops.

Liver Cancer

Hepatologists team with University of Chicago oncologists, surgeons, interventional radiologists and other specialists to offer the most aggressive therapies to confront this challenging type of cancer. Additionally, specialized nurses, social workers and other members of the care team guide patients and their families from diagnosis through treatment. »Learn more about our approach to treating liver cancer

Cholestatic Liver Disease

Comprehensive treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis combines the expertise of University of Chicago liver specialists (hepatologists) with University of Chicago specialists in gastroenterology (GI). Since establishing the nation’s first full-time GI department in 1927, the University of Chicago Medicine has been a worldwide leader in gastroenterology, particularly related to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Primary sclerosing cholangitis often is associated with IBD. With its depth of expertise, the University of Chicago Medicine is uniquely positioned to offer patients the most advanced therapies for these complex liver diseases.

Fatty Liver Disease

Closely associated with excess body weight, fatty liver disease is a chronic liver problem that is becoming more common as more Americans become medically obese. In some cases, fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis and the need for liver transplantation Weight loss can improve an individual’s health and lower their risk factors for these serious complications.

A multidisciplinary approach offers the best opportunity for long-term health. The treatment team includes hepatologists (physicians specializing in liver disease), nurses, and nutritionists who provide personalized dietary counseling for weight loss and maintenance. Other University of Chicago specialists on-site may collaborate with the Liver Center team to address a patient’s specific needs, including surgeons experienced in weight-loss surgery and endocrinologists with expertise in managing diabetes. Care among different specialists is coordinated through the liver team.

Genetic Liver Diseases

The Center for Liver Diseases offers state-of-the-art treatment of genetic liver diseases, including genetic hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, and alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. Treatment for hemochromatosis reduces accumulated iron from the liver and blood. For most patients, phlebotomy (removing a small amount of iron-laden blood in a procedure similar to blood donation) is the preferred method of treatment. Depending on the level of iron in the individual’s blood, phlebotomy may be needed every week for a period of 1-2 years to lower the blood’s iron to the desired level. After the iron level is reduced, less-frequent phlebotomy procedures will be needed for the rest of the individual’s life.

Similarly, treatment for Wilson’s disease uses various methods to eliminate excess copper from the body.

Additionally, the Liver Center conducts genetic screening to identify family members who may be at risk for inherited liver diseases. By identifying family members who carry the genetic factors for these liver diseases, experts here can intervene to lower the individual’s risk of developing complications from genetic liver disease.

Autoimmune Liver Disease

Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when a person’s own immune system attacks their liver. The Center for Liver Diseases offers various oral medications that modulate the immune system and are effective for managing autoimmune liver disease.

Drug-Induced Liver Injury

A wide variety of medications and herbal supplements can damage the liver. Our team employs the most effective methods to diagnose damage caused by medications, and to intervene as appropriate.

Liver Transplant: Internationally Recognized Program

The University of Chicago Medicine has one of the oldest and most experienced liver transplant programs in the U.S. Hepatologists partner with transplant surgeons, nursing specialists and other members of the transplant team to provide comprehensive, ongoing care for individuals who need a liver transplant. »Learn more about our approach to liver transplantation