SAN ANTONIO — Here in San Antonio close to half of all adults have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It's often caused by being overweight and having type-2 diabetes.

"I first found out about fatty liver disease when my mom was diagnosed with fatty liver disease in 2008," said Norma Avitoa-Ovalle who was diagnosed by her primary care physician one year after her mother was. She added, "He did some lab work and my liver enzymes were elevated and I was referred to a hepatologist."

After seeing what her mother was going through, she knew she had to take control of the disease. Avitoa-Ovalle told us, "I saw my mother struggle with the symptoms because one of the things she had when she ended up in 2008 that took her to the hospital was she had an enlarged spleen."

The main symptoms of advanced fatty liver disease include an enlarged liver, an enlarged spleen, fatigue, and pain in the upper right abdomen." Avitoa-Ovalle had none of those symptoms yet, but took steps to prevent them. She said, "I'm a nurse so I started investigating to see whatever else I could do to keep my liver healthy."

That included exercise and changing her diet. She also had several biopsies, a gastroectomy to help her lose weight, and a procedure by Dr. Naim Alkhohri, a transplant hepatologist at University Hospital, called a fibroscan. Dr. Alkhohri told us, "It measures liver stiffness and tells you how much scarring you have in the liver, or liver fibrosis, and it's an ultrasound-based technology."

She's now in a clinical trial for a drug not currently FDA approved for use with fatty liver, but one that shows promise and would be the first to take the disease head on. Dr. Alkhohri added, "We are happy to see patients to be considered for these clinical trials, and we anticipate by next year, 2020, we may have the first FDA approved medication."

If you would like to know more about clinical trials at University Hospital call 210-918-8854. You can also email LeeAnn Gutierrez with Texas Liver Institute at

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