Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is common in morbidly obese persons. Liver biopsy is diagnostic but technically challenging in such individuals. This study was undertaken to develop a clinically useful scoring system to predict the probability of NASH in morbidly obese persons, thus assisting in the decision to perform liver biopsy. Consecutive subjects undergoing bariatric surgery without evidence of other liver disease underwent intraoperative liver biopsy. The outcome was pathologic diagnosis of NASH. Predictors evaluated were demographic, clinical, and laboratory variables. A clinical scoring system was constructed by rounding the estimated regression coefficients for the independent predictors in a multivariate logistic model for the diagnosis of NASH. Of 200 subjects studied, 64 (32%) had NASH. Median body mass index was 48 kg/m(2) (interquartile range, 43-55). Multivariate analysis identified six predictive factors for NASH: the diagnosis of hypertension (odds ratio [OR], 2.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1-5.6), type 2 diabetes (OR, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.1-6.3), sleep apnea (OR, 4.0; 95% CI, 1.3-12.2), AST > 27 IU/L (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.2-7.0), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) > 27 IU/L (OR, 3.3; 95% CI, 1.4-8.0), and non-Black race (OR, 8.4; 95% CI, 1.9-37.1). A NASH Clinical Scoring System for Morbid Obesity was derived to predict the probability of NASH in four categories (low, intermediate, high, and very high).
Conclusion: The proposed clinical scoring can predict NASH in morbidly obese persons with sufficient accuracy to be considered for clinical use, identifying a very high-risk group in whom liver biopsy would be very likely to detect NASH, as well as a low-risk group in whom biopsy can be safely delayed or avoided.