Clinical features and natural history of nonalcoholic steatosis syndromes

Semin Liver Dis. 2001;21(1):17-26. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-12926.


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, along with other forms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, is a chronic liver disease that is attracting increasing significance. It is a clinicopathologic syndrome that was originally described in obese, diabetic females who denied alcohol use but in whom the hepatic histology was consistent with alcoholic hepatitis. This typical patient profile has been expanded and is now recognized to occur even in normal weight males without overt abnormalities in carbohydrate metabolism. Although originally believed to be a benign clinical entity, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is now recognized as a cause of progressive fibrotic liver disease with adverse clinical sequelae. It is important to emphasize that nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is best considered one type of a larger spectrum of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that is a consequence of insulin resistance and ranges from fat alone to fat plus inflammation, fat plus ballooning degeneration, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, the latter being the most serious form. As with any disease, the clinical importance of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is related to its prevalence and natural history. Recent studies using different methodologies indicate that in the general population the prevalence of fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is approximately 20% and 3%, respectively. These prevalence rates are increased in certain subpopulations such as obesity and type II diabetes. Of greater concern is the recognition that cirrhosis and liver-related deaths occur in approximately 20% and 8% of these patients, respectively, over a 10-year period. Risk factors for these adverse clinical symptoms include patients older than the age of 45, the presence of diabetes or obesity, an aspartate aminotransferase/alanine aminotransferase ratio > 1 and hepatic histology. However, a number of important unresolved issues must be clarified before the true natural history of this disease can be fully understood.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis*
  • Fatty Liver / etiology
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors