Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients at greater risk

Liver-DiseaseLondon, Jan 28 : Patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) - where the liver has trouble breaking down fats causing a build up in the organ tissue - suffer a higher risk of mortality than the general population, says a Swedish study.

The research, led by Cecilia Sodenberg of the Karolinska Institute, evaluated 256 male and female subjects between the ages of 33-57 who had undergone a liver biopsy (between 1980-1984) due to elevated liver enzymes.

The biopsies were blindly scored for NAFLD and NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) which resembles alcoholic liver disease, but occurs in people who drink little.

The findings suggest that for this study population, persistently elevated serum levels of liver enzymes was associated with an increased risk of death during the 28-year study period.

Patients with NAFLD and NASH had a much higher risk of death than the general population but not as high a risk as for patients with chronic viral hepatitis or alcoholic liver disease.

Cardiovascular disease and extra-hepatic malignancies were the primary and secondary causes of death among patients with NAFLD whereas liver-related causes were the third.

"This study has four major strengths," says Sodenberg. "Firstly, all the subjects were enrolled consecutively during a defined period of time (1980-1984).

Secondly, all underwent liver biopsy at the time of referral so that the diagnoses of NAFLD are based on histological criteria, says a Karolinska Institute release.

Thirdly, re-evaluation of the initial biopsy findings was performed in all cases. And finally, even deceased subjects could be followed up through the Cause of Death Registry, so that there were no losses during follow-up."

The study is slated for publication in the February issue of Hepatology, published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.(IANS)