Kitchener-Waterloo

New centre to treat patients with liver conditions opens at Cambridge Memorial Hospital

A Liver Health Clinic at Cambridge Memorial Hospital is accepting doctor referrals for patients who have been diagnosed with liver disease, and are in need of treatment and management of various disorders.

Advanced liver disease is mostly unrecognized, says lead hepatologist

Dr. Mohammad Omair Sarfaraz pictured with patient Randy and registered nurse, Jackie Cole. Randy was at the new liver clinic on Tuesday to have fluid removed from his abdomen. Normally he travels to Toronto for this procedure. (Submitted by: Cambridge Memorial Hospital)

Patients being treated for liver disease in and around Waterloo region will no longer need to make the long commute to Toronto to receive medical treatment.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital officially launched the Regional Liver Health Centre on Tuesday. It's now accepting patients with a diagnosis to receive treatment and manage advanced liver disease. 

Dr. Mohammad Omair Sarfaraz, the lead hepatologist at the centre, said advanced liver disease is mostly an unrecognized pathology in the community. 

"Most patients live with chronic liver issues but never are assessed, managed or treated for it. And the end result unfortunately happens that they're presented at the hospital with complications of cirrhosis and sometimes it can be an acute liver failure," Sarfaraz said.

The Canadian Liver Foundation says one in four Canadians may be affected by liver disease in their lifetime and not even realize it, since they have no symptoms and health problems could be confused with something else.

Sarfaraz estimates up to 10,000 patients in Waterloo region, Guelph and Wellington county are living with cirrhosis of the liver.

Various treatments and services

CMH says the clinic will offer treatment for advanced cirrhosis, acute hepatitis, metabolic-associated fatty liver disease and other liver disorders. Dietitians and consultations with registered nurses will also be available.

Patients need to be referred to the clinic by their doctor, while others are sent to the clinic after a visit to the emergency room.

"There's so many patients in our community who were not being managed effectively. You can imagine the stress and the burden on the emergency care team of these patients," Sarfaraz said.

Dr. Augustin Nguyen, chief of medicine at Cambridge Memorial, said the new centre comes at an important time as local doctors are seeing more patients with concerns about their livers.

"Up until now, liver health care has been fragmented in our region. Caring for patients with advanced disease is often difficult when there is a lack of co-ordination and specialists," Nguyen said in a release about the centre Tuesday. "This fragmented care can lead to increased emergency visits, hospitalizations or referrals for care out of region."

The Liver Health Clinic was supposed to open last year, but was delayed by the pandemic. It officially opened on Oct. 12, but the centre has been taking patients since August.

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