Hepatology be considered a subspecialty of gastroenterology
Diseases and complications related to viral hepatitis and alcohol are the main reason for seeking specialist advice. More than two billion people have been infected with hepatitis B virus at some point in their life, and 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 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, however, overall alcohol consumption is increasing, and consequently the number of people with cirrhosis and other related complications is commensurately increasing.
Hepatology used to be considered a subspecialty of gastroenterology, but nowadays doctors can specialize in hepatology, which is quickly emerging as a freestanding speciality. As a critical organ that can be affected by a large number of factors, the liver is usually the focal point in hepatology.
A hepatologist generally only assesses patients after they are referred by their doctor. A hepatologist may also be involved in the follow-up of patients who have received a liver transplant.
Evidence from autopsies on Egyptian mummies suggests that liver damage from the parasitic infection bilharziasis was widespread in the ancient society. It is possible that the Greeks may have been aware of the liver's ability to exponentially duplicate as illustrated by the story of Prometheus. However, knowledge about liver disease in antiquity is questionable. Most of the important advances in the field have been made in the last 50 years.
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.
Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Education