The University of Chicago Medicine's metabolic and fatty liver program brings together liver disease experts from multiple specialties to ensure our patients receive comprehensive care. We see patients with different types of metabolic liver diseases, with a specific focus on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its risk factors, including diabetes, obesity and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).

We are the only place in Chicago that takes a team approach to managing fatty liver disease. Each member of our team participates in the evaluation and ongoing care of every patient. Fatty liver disease is typically linked with other obesity-related conditions. Depending on a patient’s specific needs, we work closely with UChicago Medicine's bariatric surgery team, bariatric endoscopy team and the Chicago Weight Management program to provide collaborative, all-encompassing care.

Our individualized, long-term treatment plans are driven by our innovative research. Patients will receive the most advanced treatment options and have the advantage of participating in our clinical trials.

We want to make our services as convenient as possible, especially for people who have to travel a long way or need to take time off work. Our program provides consolidated care in one location so when patients schedule appointments, they can meet with their entire care team in one visit.

After the initial visit, providers meet on a monthly basis to review patients’ treatment plans and track their progress. The goal for our treatment plans is to prevent the progression or recurrence of fat buildup in the liver.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although fatty liver disease is often connected to alcohol, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when excess fat builds up in the liver due to a poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. Patients with a fast food diet — including a lot of saturated fats, cholesterol and fructose — typically have the most progressive form of the disease. Often presenting no obvious symptoms, NAFLD is difficult to detect. In fact, less than one percent of patients are properly diagnosed. It is typically a marker of a broader health concern, such as hypertension, diabetes or lipid trouble.

Over the last few decades, fatty liver disease has become a national health crisis. It's estimated that more than a quarter of people in the United States have some form of the disease, but a majority have never been diagnosed or treated.

A severe type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease — called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) — is associated with obesity and can cause inflammation, scarring and irreversible liver damage. NASH-related cirrhosis and liver failure have become leading causes of liver transplant and the numbers are only predicted to increase.

Genetics can play a role in developing fatty liver disease. There is one gene in particular, PNPLA3, that is linked to increased risk for the disease. This gene is frequently found in people with a Hispanic and/or Latino background.

Also, children born while a parent has fatty liver disease are more likely to develop early onset endocrine problems.

Read a Q&A with Dr. Charlton to learn more about fatty liver disease.

Services We Offer

As part of our comprehensive program, the Metabolic and Fatty Liver Program offers the following services:

We specialize in the care of individuals with metabolic liver disorders, including but not limited to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

A collaborative, individualized and multi-specialty team approach offers patients truly comprehensive care. Our team includes hepatologists, endocrinologists and nutritionists.

You can expect consultation and seamless care coordination with leading experts in weight management, minimally invasive bariatric endoscopy and bariatric surgery.

We use state-of-the-art imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance elastography, to evaluate the liver without the need of a liver biopsy.

Research & Clinical Trials

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in the world. It’s estimated that roughly 25 percent of people in the United States have fat deposition in the liver. Understanding how certain factors affect the progression of fatty liver disease — such as diet and gut bacteria — allows us to tailor therapies to individuals at a highest risk for disease progression. We offer the latest clinical trials of promising therapies related to fatty liver disease.

Dedicated to advancing treatment, UChicago Medicine has an internationally-recognized group of investigators with specific interests in the role gut bacteria and intestinal inflammation plays in fat build up in the liver. We also have researchers with advanced experience utilizing mouse models to study fatty liver disease.

What to Expect

Prior to your first visit, we ask you to fill out a food recall questionnaire. This will help us assess how best to tailor your evaluation and treatment before we meet you.

During the first visit, you will meet with our team of providers, including a hepatologist, endocrinologist and a nutritionist. Patients will have labs done during their visit, so you must fast before the appointment, meaning you cannot eat or drink after midnight the day before. You will also undergo a simple exam in the office called a Fibroscan. Similar to an ultrasound, this test gives us information on how healthy the liver is, how much fat there is and if there is any scarring. Please plan on three hours for the first appointment.

Please bring your insurance card, your identification (ID) and your medication list.

Parking is discounted, but the parking fee is about $10.

See parking information and a full list of parking options.

UChicago Medicine employee helping a patient check in

For Consultations, Referrals or Appointments

Contact Estela Villagomez at 773-702-5571 or email MetabolicLiverClinic@uchospitals.edu.