Background: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is considered to be the liver component of the metabolic syndrome and is frequently associated with obesity, dyslipidemia and type II diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). We aimed to determine the development of liver function tests (LFTs) and metabolic complications in patients previously diagnosed with NAFLD.
Methods: One-hundred-and-two patients with NAFLD diagnosed in the period 1994-2001 were identified. Eighty were brought in for new investigations, including LFTs, blood pressure, BMI, lipid profile, blood glucose and insulin. Original liver biopsy was re-evaluated.
Results: Sixty-two patients (77%) were males (median age 46 years; mean follow-up time 2.8 +/- 1.2 years). Fifty-four patients (68%) were light to moderately overweight with body mass index (BMI) 25-30 kg/m. Mean BMI (28.2) was the same at diagnosis and at follow-up (28.3). At the new examination, 18 patients (23%) had developed diabetes mellitus type II (n = 6) or had impaired fasting glucose (IFG) (n = 12), compared to only 2 patients at diagnosis. Hyperinsulinemia was observed in 19 patients (24%). Dyslipidemia, with elevated triglycerides and/or hypercholesterolemia, was now present in 65 patients (81%). Twenty-two patients (27%) had hypertension compared to 9 (11%) at diagnosis. Liver biopsy was performed in 24%, and 89% of those fulfilled the criteria for NASH. However, mild inflammation and fibrosis was observed, grade 1-2 (n = 17), stage I-II (n = 13) and none had cirrhosis.
Conclusion: A significant proportion of patients with both clinical and histological diagnosis of NAFLD develop metabolic problems soon after diagnosis. These patients should be screened regularly for metabolic disorders.