Hepatology is the branch of medicine that incorporates the study of liver, gallbladder, biliary tree, and pancreas as well as management of their disorders.
The liver is the body’s largest organ and hepatology is a large field. It includes, but is not limited to, the study of acute and chronic hepatitis, viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, genetic and metabolic liver diseases and their complications, liver cancer, liver transplantation, drug metabolism (which depends largely upon the liver), and immunology as it pertains to the liver.
Diseases and complications related to viral hepatitis and alcohol are the main reason for seeking specialist advice. One third of world population has been infected with Hepatitis B virus at some point in their life. Although most of them would clear the virus from the body, approximately 350 million have become persistent carriers. Up to 80% of liver cancers can be attributed to either hepatitis B or Hepatitis C virus.
In terms of number of mortality, the former is second only to smoking among known agents causing cancer. With more widespread implementation of vaccination and strict screening before blood transfusion, lower infection rates are expected in the future. In many countries, though, overall alcohol intake is on the rise, and consequently the number of people with cirrhosis and other related complications is increasing.