ZocdocAnswersWhat does a shadow on the liver indicate?

Question

What does a shadow on the liver indicate?

I am a 51 year old woman with a history of alcohol abuse, who recently got an ultrasound to look for liver disease. Nothing was found that would indicate a definite problem, but the doctor found what he called a 'Shadow On The Liver' that he want to look at further. What is a shadow on the liver?

Answer

I'm really glad that no definite problems were found in your liver. The statement "shadow on the liver" should have been explained to you in more detail. Sometimes we physicians make the mistake of using a term which can cause distress to our patients without fully explaining what it means. To answer this question, I will have to explain a bit about how the ultrasound technique works. Ultrasound uses sound waves that penetrate the body's tissues and echo, or bounce back, to the ultrasound probe allowing your doctor to see different types of tissues in your body. Tissue such as fat echoes sound back and shows up white whereas fluid such as blood does not echo sound back and appears black. Some tissues do not allow sound to penetrate. For example bone and other dense tissues create what its known as a shadow which is just tissue for which the ultrasound waves did not make it and thus there is no signal. A shadow area is thus an area which cannot be characterized by ultrasound. Your doctor telling you that you have a shadow on your liver says that there was something in the way of his ultrasound probe and will need to do further imaging to characterize this area. I hope this helps answer your question.

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