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'Traffic light' test could aid liver disease diagnosis

A new 'traffic light' test could help primary healthcare professionals diagnose liver disease earlier in high-risk populations.

The Southampton Traffic Light (STL) test, developed by Dr Nick Sheron and colleagues at the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, combines several different tests and clinical markers.

A score is then given to indicate how likely it is for any given patient to develop liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis.

Like traffic lights, the scores are given in three colours. Red will mean the patient already has liver fibrosis and may have cirrhosis, amber means there is at least a 50:50 chance of scarring with a “significant possibility” of death within five years and patients should be advised to stop drinking to reduce their chance of developing further diseases; and green means there is no cirrhosis.

It is claimed the test can provide primary healthcare professionals with an “objective means” to accurately assess the potential severity of liver fibrosis in high-risk patients -heavy drinkers, people with type II diabetes, or those who are obese.

“In primary care, minor abnormalities of existing liver tests are quite common but we struggle to know how best to investigate these further and who warrants specialist intervention,” said Dr Michael Moore, GP and co-author of the study.  
“The traffic light test has the advantage of highlighting those at highest risk who should be investigated further and those in whom the risk is much lower where a watchful approach is more appropriate. 

“This is not a universal screening test but if targeted at those in whom there is a suspicion of liver disease should result in a more rational approach to further investigation.”

The 'traffic light' test's accuracy is claimed to have been proven after it was successful in detecting those with severe liver disease among a group of more then 1,000 people.

Are you interested in using the 'traffic light' test?