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Fatty Liver Disease Driving More Liver Transplants, UH Gastroenterologist Says

Patients receive support to reverse the lifestyle-driven condition at UH Portage Medical Center

UH Clinical Update - October 2017

For University Hospitals gastroenterologist Jonathan Umbel, DO, it’s an exciting time to be in the specialty. Jonathan Umbel, DO

“There have been some important recent developments in liver disease, which is my area of subspecialty,” he says. “The largest innovations have been in the treatment of hepatitis C. About five years ago, the cure rate with the medicines we had available was 30 to 40 percent. Over the last 18 months to two years, new medicines have become available. They’re all pills, have minimal side effects and have a cure rate of 95 percent or greater.”

Another area of change within gastroenterology, Dr. Umbel says, has been in the increased diagnosis and treatment of patients with fatty liver disease.

“Because of the new medications available for hepatitis C, fatty liver disease is fast becoming the number one cause of liver cirrhosis and liver transplant in this country,” he says. “From my standpoint, it’s important for me to see these patients and help them make dietary and other lifestyle modifications to prevent the progression of their disease. It is reversible. With interventions, you can go back to a normal liver. But if you don’t, it can lead to cirrhosis and other complications. At this point, it’s mainly a lifestyle-controlled disease – diet, exercise, weight loss, control of cholesterol, control of diabetes. Medications are in the development stages, but we’re probably four or five years away from any medical therapy.”

Given that his patients’ lifestyle choices are so important to their overall health, Dr. Umbel takes the time to collaborate and build consensus.
“It’s very much a team and relationship approach between the patient and me,” he says. “I make recommendations and then we talk about the best plan that might be suited to them. What works for patient A may not work for patient B. I leave it open. I say, ‘Here’s what I recommend based on your symptoms, but let’s come to a decision together about what’s going to be best for you in the long term.’”

Dr. Umbel earned his medical degree at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. No stranger to the UH community, he completed his internal medicine residency training at UH St. John Medical Center and his gastroenterology fellowship training at UH Cleveland Medical Center. Although he sees some patients at UH Cleveland Medical Center and UH Geauga Medical Center, he’s primarily based at UH Portage Medical Center, close to where he grew up in Geauga County.

“I am committed to Portage County,” he says. “I believe it’s important to give back to the community as a whole.”

He says he also looks forward to collaborating with UH primary care providers to help create optimal outcomes for patients.

“The primary care physician can tell the patient the same thing that I am,” he says. “The more people give the same advice, the more it hits home.”


For more information about Dr. Umbel or to refer a patient, please call 330-297-6060.