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Why Do I Need a Liver Specialist?

If you have had tests indicating you may have a problem with your liver, or if you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, the first step in a proactive plan is to see a physician who specializes in liver disease.

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C and liver disease, in building your healthcare team, you are the head of the team. However, you’ll need a qualified captain – that person being a liver specialist. There are two types of physicians who specialize in liver disease, gastroenterologists and hepatologists.


Gastroenterologists specialize in the study of the digestive system. A gastroenterologist is an internist who has specialized training in the disorders of the digestive tract, including the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. They are board certified in internal medicine and have completed a two to three-year fellowship in gastroenterology in order to take the board exam.


Hepatologists are a sub-specialty that study the liver and liver disease. gallbladder, and the pancreas. The Latin root word ‘hepato’ means liver. Hepatologists go through a fellowship that lasts for two years in addition to medical school with intense training of liver disease. Hepatologists spend years along with continued education on liver disease and how to treat it.

What’s the difference?

Many liver disease specialists have completed both fellowships for gastroenterology and hepatology. Both physicians are qualified to treat liver disease like hepatitis C and other related conditions.

A liver specialist keeps up with the current tests, procedures, and treatment for hepatitis C and liver disease, as well as clinical trial studies.

Medical professionals like gastroenterologists and hepatologists are qualified to prescribe and treat patients with all stages of hepatitis C and liver disease. Liver specialists will do physical exams and talk to you about your health and access any risk factors that would indicate a problem with your liver health and treatment. These specialists will know which specific tests need to be run in order to determine the condition of the patient’s liver, and which treatment is best for the patient’s condition.

Many hepatologists also specialize in liver cancer and liver transplants and work closely with transplant specialists to care for the patient before and after liver transplant.

Take charge of your health!

Whichever physician you choose to help you with hepatitis C and liver disease, you should feel comfortable asking questions and feel confident in their care, if not, you have the right to change physicians. As the captain of your healthcare team, having a good relationship with your liver specialist is critical.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.