June 28, 2023 — Liver disease, the UK’s third leading cause of premature death, poses a significantly greater threat to human health than previously recognized.
Ground-breaking new Perspectum research using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) AI-enabled assessment tools has revealed that patients with liver disease are at considerably higher risk of heart failure and other serious heart-related problems.
The new study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, uses data from the UK Biobank and is the first to determine that early liver disease activity is associated with cardiovascular disease or ‘CVD’.
The findings may help health professionals encourage people to take better care of themselves through lifestyle changes. In 90% of cases, liver disease is preventable.
But few people seem concerned about the threat it poses to their health. Only 5% of adults say their liver would be of great concern if they discovered they had a problem with it -compared to 72% for a heart problem, according to the Liver Trust.
Highlighting the relationship between liver disease, arrhythmia and heart failure may change this, experts hope.
The new study finds that people with higher liver disease activity have 27% increased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, leading to death in 19% of cases.
And those with clinically significant liver disease are 38% more likely to be hospitalized for a major adverse cardiovascular event.
The findings will be studied closely by health experts. In the UK, liver disease is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the next few years, according to the Liver Trust. But the disease is often difficult to spot.
“Fatty liver disease is a ‘silent’ condition with increasing prevalence in modern times that takes decades to become symptomatic,” said co-investigator Professor Arun Sanyal, Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Molecular Pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, Virginia.
Almost two thirds -63% of UK adults- are now classed as obese and overweight, and it’s estimated that 1 in 3 of them have early-stage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to the Liver Trust.
The study, conducted over a five-year period and involving scientists in the UK, South Africa, and the US, examined the health of more than 33,000 individuals in the UK who had been imaged with ‘LiverMultiScan’, an AI-assisted MRI assessment device developed by Perspectum, a UK Top 10 MedTech company.
The technology has already identified hidden liver disease in apparently ‘healthy’ middle-aged adults which, if diagnosed early enough, can be overcome with lifestyle changes.
Amitava Banerjee, Professor in Clinical Data Science at University College London, and the study’s lead investigator, said that its findings may see health professionals reconsider their approach to evaluating the health risks associated with liver disease.
“With this technology, we could change our approach not only to liver but to heart disease. Now that we have found that severe heart problems begin much earlier in those with fat in the liver, it is crucial that doctors across disciplines work together to exploit this new understanding because early disease prevention or regression is feasible.”
Dr Adriana Roca-Fernandez, senior scientist at Perspectum, said the study confirmed the need for early detection of CVD risk in patients with liver disease. “This study is making us re-consider the impact liver disease has on the human body and its relationship with heart-related conditions. Research suggests people do not often consider their liver when making lifestyle choices, but we do know they are concerned about their hearts. This study tells them: if you want to look after your heart, start with your liver.”
For more information: www.perspectum.com