The liver and gallbladder in cystic fibrosis

The liver and gallbladder in cystic fibrosis

Prevent liver damage and gallstones in CF


As many as 30 percent of those who have cystic fibrosis (CF), also have liver problems or a gallbladder that doesn't work well. These usually are seen in adults, but can start in teenagers. 

The problems can take many different forms: from extra fat in the liver, gallbladder stones, to scarring in the liver. Why? Because the different CF gene types can cause different types of complications. And liver problems can also be caused by diet or medications used to treat lung infections that come with CF.  

The problems become evident during routine annual liver tests or may present as an enlarged liver during a medical visit. An MRI (an x-ray like test that doesn't use radiation) is often the best way to evaluate, monitor and manage the problem.   

Treatment is directed towards prevention of liver damage (cirrhosis). Dietary measures may help—so it's important to meet with a dietitian as well as your doctor to review discuss diet changes that can be beneficial.

picture of the liver in cystic fibrosis

Medications are carefully chosen. One medicine (ursodeoxycholic acid) can help the bile flow improve, while other medicines and herbal remedies may cause liver damage.