Hepatologists specialize in treating diseases and disorders affecting the liver and related structures like the pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts - a complex network of organs responsible for vital processes.

Watch an Overview of Hepatology

About Hepatology

Hepatology is a field of medicine encompassing the diagnosis and treatment of the various diseases and disorders that affect the liver, pancreas, bile ducts and gall bladder, although the majority of patients who visit a hepatologist do so gegarding treatment for liver complications. Hepatologists are trained to provide care to patients suffering from diseases and conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver, chronic liver disease, all forms of hepatitis, jaundice, enzyme deficiencies, cancer of the liver, pancreatic cancer, tumors, and other celiac diseases and gall stones, among many others.

Depending upon the patient’s situation and diagnosis, the hepatologist may perform a variety of different diagnostic procedures including endoscopies, liver biopsies and blood testing and analysis, among other tests. The care of a hepatologist is usually sought out when gastroenterologists, internists, or other physicians are not qualified or do not have the clinical experience to correctly diagnose or provide the necessary care for a patient suffering from a disease of the liver or related structure.

Hepatologists often consult on cases in hospitals or clinics, offering their professional opinion with regard to the treatment and/or management of hepatological diseases. Hepatologists also play a vital role in the prevention of liver and related diseases, performing research in the field and educating patients on the risks of alcohol abuse and other factors that may contribute to the degradation of the liver, such as the contraction of hepatitis.

Hepatology Education & Training

The training to become a hepatologist begins with the completion of an undergraduate degree before earning a four year MD or DO degree from a medical school. After completion of a four year medical degree, the hepatologist in training must complete an internship and residency program. Hepatologists must complete a three year residency program in internal medicine, where the student is exposed to a variety of clinical and research opportunities relating to the diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases affecting nearly every organ system.

Following completion of a residency program, the physician may choose to seek board certification in internal medicine before completing a three year fellowship program in gastroenterology and hepatology. The fellowship will provide the physician with the opportunity to treat patients suffering from diseases of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and related organs.

During the fellowship, the skills and training necessary to practice as a hepatologist will be refined. After completing a fellowship, many hepatologists will seek board certification in gastroenterology from the American Board of Internal Medicine, as hepatology is considered a subspecialty of gastroenterology.