A hepatologist is a specialist who manages disorders of the liver, the biliary tree, the gallbladder and the pancreas. Hepatology was traditionally a subspecialty of gastroenterology, but recent advances in the subspecialty have made it a field of its own.
Hepatologists deal most frequently with viral hepatitis and diseases related to alcohol. Hepatitis and alcoholic diseases impact millions of people worldwide and have been associated with several poor outcomes, such as liver cancer and liver transplantation, and complications, such as cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.
Hepatologists can treat both adult and/or pediatric patients. Some of the procedures they perform include endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), transhepatic pancreato-cholangiography (TPC) or transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPSS). A general practitioner may refer a patient to a hepatologist for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to: drug overdose, gastrointestinal bleeding from portal hypertension, jaundice, ascites, enzyme defects or blood tests that indicate liver disease. Hepatologists may also treat hemochromatosis or pancreatitis or conduct follow-ups for patients who have received a liver transplantation.