Aim: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is associated with obesity and affects roughly 10% of children. However, NAFLD is often diagnosed by exclusion - that is, obese children with an elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) are screened for other liver diseases in the absence of a biopsy. This testing is nonstandardized, and professional society recommendations differ. This study examines the yield of testing for disorders other than NAFLD in this patient population.
Methods: A retrospective study was performed in 120 obese, asymptomatic, noncholestatic children with an ALT ≥40 U/L and additional diagnostic testing.
Results: No patients were found to have Wilson's, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, cytomegalovirus, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, autoimmune hepatitis, celiac disease or Epstein-Barr virus. Only one patient (1/120) was identified with definite disease other than NAFLD, which was muscular dystrophy. The positive predictive value of a screening test was 5%, and the specificity was 97%. Of 70 children with an abdominal ultrasound, no significant abnormalities were identified.
Conclusion: Extensive testing in asymptomatic, noncholestatic, obese children with an elevated ALT may be of limited diagnostic value and false-positive tests are likely. Large, prospective studies are needed to help focus the work up in this patient population.
Keywords: Alanine Transaminase; Mass Screening; Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease; Obesity.
©2015 Foundation Acta Paediatrica. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.