Diagnosing Pediatric Hepatic Dysfunction

Pediatric hepatic dysfunction refers to liver disorders in children. Hepatic dysfunction may be present at birth, also known as congenital hepatic dysfunction, or it may be acquired. Before your child's pediatrician can treat hepatic dysfunction, the cause needs to be determined. Here are some diagnostic procedures that can help your child's physician confirm the presence of liver disease.

Physical Examination

A comprehensive physical examination can be very revealing when it comes to diagnosing liver dysfunction. During a physical examination, the pediatrician with take a detailed medical history and ask you or your child about any unusual symptoms. Liver dysfunction may be accompanied by certain signs and symptoms such as yellowing, also known as jaundice, of the eyes and skin.

Liver dysfunction may also cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, and diarrhea. The physician will examine your child's skin for jaundice, examine the eyes for yellowing of the sclerae, and ask if the child's urine is concentrated or dark in color. Dark urine may be associated with liver disease, however, it can also indicate dehydration. Liver disease may also cause light stools, also known as clay-colored stools. The physician will also palpate the abdomen to determine if the liver or any other organs are enlarged and will ask the child if there is pain upon palpation. 

Lab Tests And Imaging Studies

Lab tests such as a chemistry profile may also be performed to assess your child's liver enzymes and bilirubin. If the liver enzymes are elevated, further testing may be needed because high liver enzymes often indicate hepatic dysfunction. If the bilirubin level is high it may mean that your child has jaundice and hepatic dysfunction; however, certain medications and a benign condition known as Gilbert's syndrome may also result in an elevated bilirubin level.

If the pediatrician needs to further investigate your child's liver function, an ultrasound of the liver may be performed. A liver ultrasound is considered safe because instead of using ionizing radiation to capture images of the internal organs, it uses soundwave imaging technology. If the ultrasound is abnormal, further diagnostic testing such as a liver biopsy may be warranted. 

If your child appears jaundiced, has dark urine, pale stools, experiences a loss of appetite, or is losing weight, seek medical attention as soon as possible. When pediatric hepatic dysfunction is diagnosed and treated early in its progression, complications such as variceal bleeding and liver failure may be less likely to occur. 

For more information, contact a pediatric facility like Better Family Care.