Gastroenterologists at Seattle Children’s lead the field in improving treatment and early detection of pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Seattle Children’s is launching a new Fatty Liver Program, the only program in the region dedicated to this disease. Operating in conjunction with the Endocrinology Department, the program will allow physicians, a dietitian and a psychologist to provide care in one location – which can be crucial when managing obesity, the major underlying cause of fatty liver disease.

“With obesity, children may also have many other comorbidities, including diabetes and depression, and they may have to see five or six different doctors who may give families different information,” says Dr. Niviann Marie Blondet, gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s. “Now, we’re aiming to unify this management under one roof in a single program.”

Emphasizing early detection through research

The new program adds to the already-robust liver disease research currently underway at Seattle Children’s, the only clinical site in the Pacific Northwest and one of only 12 pediatric facilities in the nation to join the Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network (NASH CRN).
“Our involvement in NASH CRN allows patients in our Fatty Liver Program the opportunity to enroll in different research studies,” Blondet says. “Pediatric liver disease research is very limited, and this gives patients access to the most up-to-date studies and trials.”

Currently, the center is involved in the NASH CRN database, which collects information from pediatric fatty liver disease patients, that will help pediatricians identify early predictors of the disease in children at greatest risk for progression.

A number of other physicians at Seattle Children’s have contributed to NASH CRN research projects since it launched in 2002. Most recently, Dr. Karen F. Murray, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Seattle Children’s and vice chair of clinical affairs for the Department of Pediatrics at UW Medicine, led a team of physicians from Seattle Children’s who collaborated on a study published in the August 2017 Journal of Pediatrics. Their research linked both low and high birth weights to a child’s increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and, in particular, the more severe forms of the disease.

With the aid of NASH CRN, Seattle Children’s next research venture will be to develop standards for ultrasounds, which can be used to detect the presence and possibly stage degree of fibrosis in children with liver disease. These standards already exist for adults but not for children.

“Fatty liver disease is a silent disease,” Blondet says. “If we don’t detect it in time, we won’t be able to treat it appropriately.”

Call 206-987-7777 for provider-to-provider patient consults and visit our Gastroenterology and Hepatology page to learn more.

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Identifying Fatty Liver Disease Q & A