Echogenic liver is one which is whiter than usual on ultrasound. Echogenic liver has many causes but is most commonly seen with fatty infiltration. Echogenic liver may not have any associated symptoms or lab abnormalities. Echogenic liver can be reversed in some cases with appropriate treatment.
What is echogenic liver?
Echogenic liver is one which is whiter than usual on ultrasound.
Ultrasound uses sound waves to let us look inside the body. Echogenicity describes the appearance of the liver on ultrasound.
We compare the liver to other nearby organs like the kidney to determine if the echogenicity is abnormal.
What causes echogenic liver?
Fatty liver disease is the most common cause. This is when there is abnormal accumulation of fats in liver cells. This can lead to liver scarring and cirrhosis in some cases.
Cirrhosis can lead to increased echogenicity of liver. Often we see nodular appearance of the liver. This is a result of many liver diseases which lead to cell death. Cirrhosis is most commonly caused by alcohol abuse and chronic viral hepatitis.
Chronic hepatitis often can lead to an echogenic liver.
Infiltrative processes like cancer can sometimes lead to an echogenic liver.
Iron deposition in the liver can lead to an echogenic liver.
Symptoms of echogenic liver
Symptoms will depend on the cause.
Since fatty liver is one of the more common causes of fatty liver, we may see no symptoms or mild ones like abdominal pain. We may also see changes in liver enzyme blood tests.
More serious causes like cirrhosis may present with liver failure, fluid in the abdomen and liver cancer.
How is echogenic liver diagnosed?
Echogenic liver is diagnosed using ultrasound. We compare the liver appearance to the kidney or spleen. An echogenic liver will be whiter than the kidney or spleen.
What does echogenic liver look like on ultrasound?
Echogenic liver will appear whiter than usual. The liver is whiter than the kidney or spleen on ultrasound.
What else can look like echogenic liver in radiology?
There are many causes of echogenic liver on ultrasound. We most commonly see this with fatty liver. Other causes can include cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis, cancer or iron deposition.
Is echogenic liver dangerous?
Yes, it can be. Fatty liver can eventually lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is chronic liver scarring and failure.
What type of doctor treats echogenic liver?
Echogenic liver may be treated by primary care doctors or more specialized doctors like gastroenterologists and liver specialists. Often the cause will determine whether referral to a specialist is needed.
Echogenic liver treatment
The treatment will depend on the cause.
Fatty liver can be treated by reversing the underlying cause. Causes can be: alcohol use, obesity, insulin resistance/diabetes, steroid use, hepatitis, and pregnancy.
Cirrhosis is irreversible. Cancer which involves the liver can be treated with systemic treatment like chemotherapy.
Echogenic liver: summary
Echogenic liver on ultrasound means the liver is whiter than usual. This can be a result of multiple causes with fatty liver being most common. The treatment of an echogenic liver will depend on the cause. Many causes of fatty liver are reversible as outlined above.