LiverScan: Scotland’s first private screening service for liver health

Unfortunately, I know far more than I’d like about the consequences of poor liver health. Twenty-two years ago I was struck down by hepatitis, lost three stone in a month and had to give up booze for six months. The final third of my mother’s life was blighted by an inherited liver disease called haemochromatosis – aka the ‘Celtic Curse’ as it affects mainly the Scots and Irish – which leads to a build-up of iron in the liver and which eventually took her long before her time.  

So I am under no illusions about the importance of keeping an eye on one’s liver health, which is how I found myself at a new clinic called LiverScan. Discreetly hidden away on the first floor of a grand Georgian house in Edinburgh’s New Town, this is Scotland’s first private screening service for liver health, and one of just three such facilities in the UK.

The clinic uses the gold standard FibroScan® device. It is a non-invasive technique in which an ultrasound probe is pressed to your side in order to build up a picture of your liver. It takes moments – the whole consultation takes about 15 minutes from beginning to end – is painless, and you immediately get talked through your results. Although the NHS does offer liver examinations with FibroScan, you need to have obvious symptoms and there can be a year-long waiting list.

The idea of LiverScan, says Claire Hardie, the clinic’s Chief Operations Officer and a former radiographer in the NHS, is to detect fatty liver disease, which is mainly asymptomatic, and without lifestyle changes, can be life-threatening. Virtually all liver issues are self-inflicted, and this being Scotland an over-consumption of booze is one of the key issues, however other lifestyle choices are also significant contributors. Over 20% of the Scottish population is estimated to have liver damage, with 50% of that due to booze and 50% down to poor diet and a lack of exercise.

The good news, though, is that fatty liver disease is reversible with the right lifestyle changes. The secret is finding out early so you can make suitable adjustments to your regime.

My visit to LiverScan went well until my results came in. These arrived in two sections: liver scarring and liver fat. My score of 5.4 on the scarring front was fine (anything under 7 is good), but at 325 (out of a maximum 400) my liver fat content was a horror show, putting me at over 70% of liver fat and suggesting that I need to see my GP to check for conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, both of which run rampant in my family. Any score over 280 is dire, although 25% of the population attain that dubious distinction, with that number going up to around 75% for people with diabetes.

Despite the fact that I had not been doing an exercise for a month thanks to Christmas, Hogmanay and an injury, while my eating and drinking were suitably punchy over the festive period, this was clearly concerning and has necessitated a call to my GP. Thankfully, by the time I got back to my desk three emails were waiting for me with confirmation of my results.

If it was all very worrying, that’s really the point. I’m still waiting to see my GP, but at least I now know and have been told what I need to do to get my liver back on track.


26 Howe Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6TG