Fatty infiltration of liver in hyperlipidemic patients

Dig Dis Sci. 2000 Oct;45(10):1929-34. doi: 10.1023/a:1005661516165.


Hyperlipidemia is a known risk factor for fatty infiltration of the liver, a condition that can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. The objectives of this study were to document the prevalence of fatty infiltration in the livers of hyperlipidemic patients and to identify the predictor variables associated with this condition. Over an 18-month recruitment period, clinical, biochemical, and radiologic assessments were performed in a cross-sectional manner in 95 adult patients referred to an urban hospital-based lipid clinic for evaluation and management of hyperlipidemia. The mean (+/-SD) age of the patients was 55 +/- 13 years. Forty-eight (51%) were male. Fifty-two patients (55%) had hypercholesterolemia, 25 (26%) severe hypertriglyceridemia, 14 (15%) mixed hyperlipidemia, and 4 (4%) moderate hypertriglyceridemia. Obesity and diabetes were present in 36 (38%) and 12 (12%) of cases, respectively. A total of 61 (64%) patients had elevated liver enzyme tests. The most common enzyme abnormalities were an elevated serum ALT in 45 (47%) and GGT in 43 (45%) of patients. Ultrasound findings revealed diffuse fatty liver in 47 patients (50%), of which 21 cases (22%) were mild, 18 (19%) moderate, and 8 (9%) severe. The majority of patients with hypercholesterolemia [35/52 (67%)] had normal ultrasounds, whereas severe hypertriglyceridemia and mixed hyperlipidemia were frequently associated with radiologic evidence of fatty liver (odds ratios 5.9 and 5.1 respectively, P < 0.01). Independent predictors of fatty liver were; AST (P = 0.001), hyperglycemia (P = 0.02), and age (P = 0.04). In a model incorporating known risk factors for fatty liver, diabetes was the only risk factor other than hypertriglyceridemia that was significantly associated with fatty infiltration. No such effect was seen with age, gender, obesity, or alcohol consumption. In conclusions, the results of this study indicate that ultrasonographic evidence of fatty infiltration of the liver is evident in approximately 50% of patients with hyperlipidemia. Hypertriglyceridemia is the lipid profile most often associated with this condition. Serum AST values, hyperglycemia, and age independently predict the presence of fatty infiltration, while hypertriglyceridemia and diabetes are the only risk factors that significantly increase the risk of fatty infiltration in hyperlipidemic patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Fatty Liver / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / pathology*
  • Hypertriglyceridemia / pathology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors