New liver test 'could save thousands of lives'
A new test which can detect liver disease at an early stage could save thousands of lives, according to the Tayside team behind the new procedure.
Initial results from the intelligent liver function tests showed a 44% increase in liver disease diagnosis, allowing earlier access to treatment.
More than 2,500 patients have been tested in the region in the past year, with 30% showing abnormal results.
The tests have now been made standard practice across NHS Tayside.
It uses the automated blood sciences laboratory at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital and sees more tests automatically carried out on a blood sample if there is a suspected liver disorder or abnormal results with no clear explanation.
The new test has been led by Prof John Dillon and Dr Ellie Dow, along with colleagues from NHS Tayside and Dundee University.
'Ticking time bomb'
GPs receive the test results along with 32 potential outcomes, making it easier to identify the cause of liver dysfunction and give a firm diagnosis.
The team said that this is complemented with lifestyle advice for those who need it, while those with advanced or complex disease are referred for further treatment.
Work is now under way to determine whether he new test could be rolled out across Scotland.
Prof Dillon said there was now "hard evidence" that a predicted liver failure epidemic had arrived, with 800 people dying from liver disease in Scotland annually.
He said: "Liver disease is a silent killer, it creeps up on you, so it is crucial that we find a way to detect it earlier and switch off this ticking time bomb.
"By working with the existing IT systems in the lab, we were able to develop a system that detects the early warning signs of liver disease and which can then give GPs the tools they need to make a solid diagnosis and begin treatment plans."