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Definition of Hepatology

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Hepatology: The field of liver disease. 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.

Historically, hepatology grew out of gastroenterology and so became a subfield of it, although today it appears to be emerging as a freestanding medical specialty.

The hepato- part comes from the Latin hepaticus derived from the Greek hepatikos meaning (not too surprisingly) the liver. The -logy part comes from the Greek logos meaning the study of, or field.

History: Dr. Sheila Sherlock (1918-2001), was a pioneer in the science of liver disease, is considered the "mother of hepatology." Her book, "Diseases of the Liver and Biliary System" which she first published in 1955, was the first standard textbook on clinical liver disease. In 1959 she became the first woman to become a professor of medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where she set up and directed a world famous clinical, research and training center on liver disease.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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