Non-invasive diagnosis of nonalcoholic fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

J Dig Dis. 2011 Feb;12(1):10-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-2980.2010.00471.x.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease in the USA and many other parts of the world. Its prevalence continues to rise; currently affecting about one in four adults and 10% of children in the USA. NAFLD represents a wide spectrum of conditions ranging from fatty liver, which in general follows a benign, no-progressive clinical course, to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more serious form of NAFLD that may progress to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. Currently, the diagnosis of NASH requires an invasive liver biopsy with drawbacks of sampling and interpretation error. Clinical risk factors for NASH include diabetes and the metabolic syndrome; however, these are not sufficiently predictive of the condition by themselves. Routine liver enzyme levels are not reliable; however, novel plasma hepatocyte cell death markers either alone or in combination with clinical risk factors are potential non-invasive diagnostic tools for the future. This review provides a concise overview of the role non-invasive diagnostic tools for the differentiation of fatty liver from NASH as well as for the determination of presence and extent of fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis
  • Fatty Liver / epidemiology
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Prevalence


  • Biomarkers