Noninvasive diagnosis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

2009 Annals of Hepatology 8 Suppl 1;(S25-33)

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease, affecting approximately 30% of Western populations and a frequent indication for liver transplantation. The histologic spectrum of NAFLD includes simple steatosis, which has a benign prognosis, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a more aggressive form of liver injury that may progress to cirrhosis and its complications. At present, the only widely accepted means of differentiating these lesions, including the severity of hepatic fibrosis, is liver biopsy. However, due to the invasiveness of this procedure, the rising prevalence of NAFLD, and the expected availability of effective therapies for this condition, the identification of noninvasive tools for the diagnosis and staging of NAFLD has emerged as a major clinical and research priority. This review summarizes important advances in this field during the past decade, including the development of biomarkers of hepatic fibrosis, apoptosis, and inflammation; novel imaging techniques such as transient elastography; and high-throughput technologies including proteomics and genomics. Future studies must focus on the development of accurate, inexpensive, and reliable tools that can differentiate the major histologic determinants of NAFLD; are responsive to changes in NAFLD severity due to therapeutic intervention and time; and have prognostic significance. Until such tools are developed, liver biopsy remains an important tool in the assessment of patients with NAFLD.

Pubmed : 19381121