Background: Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to fibrosis and cirrhosis. We examined the prevalence of advanced liver disease in people with type 2 diabetes and analysed the effectiveness of liver function tests (LFTs) as a screening tool.
Methods: Participants (n = 939, aged 61-76 years) from the Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study, a randomly selected population of people with type 2 diabetes, underwent abdominal ultrasonography. Hyaluronic acid (HA) and platelet count/spleen diameter ratio (PSR) were used as non-invasive markers of hepatic fibrosis and portal hypertension. Subjects were screened for secondary causes of liver disease that excluded them from a diagnosis of NAFLD. The efficacy of LFTs [alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT)] in screening for liver disease was determined.
Results: Cirrhosis was identified by ultrasound in four participants (0.4%). Ten (1.1%) had evidence of portal hypertension (PSR < 909), and two (0.2%) had hepatocellular carcinoma. Fifty-three participants (5.7%) had evidence of hepatic fibrosis (HA > 100 ng/ml in the absence of joint disease); a further 169 had HA > 50 ng/ml. In participants with NAFLD-related fibrosis (HA > 100 ng/ml), 12.5% had an elevated ALT level and 17.5% had an elevated GGT level.
Conclusion: The prevalence of hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis were lower than expected. The use of LFTs to screen for liver disease missed most cases of fibrosis predicted by raised HA levels.