The clinical aspects of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol 2008; 54(1):7-18MG
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been increasingly recognized as the most common pathological conditions affecting the liver. In concert with the increase in Body Mass Index in developed countries that has occurred during the last decades, more and more individuals referred for evaluation of abnormal liver tests are found to have NAFLD. In most cases, the increase in fat within the liver is not associated with impaired liver structure or function in the long-term. However, liver steatosis should be considered to be a marker of the metabolic syndrome. A minority of patients with NAFLD develop liver cirrhosis but NAFLD is probably the most common underlying cause of cryptogenic cirrhosis. Patients with NAFLD have an increased cardiovascular mortality as well as increase in liver related complications compared with matched controls. The diagnostic evaluation of a patient with suspected NAFLD depends heavily on the setting. In whom and when a liver biopsy is indicated is controversial. An adequate history is of major importance and when alcohol is suspected to be a contributing factor to the liver steatosis, several biochemical and clinical parameters may differentiate alcoholic fatty liver and NAFLD. Unfortunately, no histological gold standard is available for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and there is still a significant diversity among pathologist concerning the minimal requirements for the term NASH. Management of patients with NAFLD should be aimed at fighting the metabolic risk factors such as visceral obesity, hyperglycemia, type II diabetes mellitus (DM) and hypertriglyceridemia. DM has been shown to be a predictor of worsening of fibrosis. Successful lifestyle modification with increased exercise and decreased food intake is able to remove the accumulation of liver fat and can reverse insulin resistance. Unfortunately, there are no well-controlled, randomized trials of weight control as therapy for NAFLD. Some pharmacological pilot trials have been undertaken in NAFLD, but no proved treatment for all patients with NAFLD and/or NASH is available at the current time.