A form of liver disease has quickly emerged as a public health threat

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be a silent killer
A form of liver disease has quickly emerged as a public health threat

by Joe Smydo | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | June 29, 2014


Renee Terney, who traveled to Erie, Pa., earlier this month to ride the slides at Splash Lagoon, has come a long way in the 2 1/2 years since she was struck by a form of liver disease that has quickly emerged as a public health threat and a challenge to transplant programs.

Blood work and other tests revealed that the Sheraden resident had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an accumulation of fat in liver cells associated with poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. The damage to Terney’s liver was so extensive that she was near death at the time of her May 2013 transplant at Allegheny General Hospital.

Terney, now 48, lost 85 pounds during the ordeal. “My goal is not to put it back on,” she said.

Like other chronic conditions and other liver ailments, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be a silent killer, with some patients experiencing no symptoms for years or longer.

Jose Oliva, medical director of Allegheny Health Network’s liver transplantation program, said it’s often discovered when routine blood work ordered by a primary care physician reveals elevated levels of liver enzymes. He said follow-up tests, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, are used to confirm the diagnosis.

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