Diagnosis and management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Postgrad Med J. 2019 Jun;95(1124):314-322. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2018-136316. Epub 2019 May 13.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease in Western industrialised countries. The prevalence of NAFLD is increasing in parallel with the global rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. NAFLD represents a spectrum of liver disease severity. NAFLD begins with accumulation of triacylglycerols in the liver (steatosis), and is defined by hepatic fatty infiltration amounting to greater than 5% by liver weight or the presence of over 5% of hepatocytes loaded with large fat vacuoles. In almost a quarter of affected individuals, steatosis progresses with the development of liver inflammation to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is a potentially progressive liver condition and with ongoing liver injury and cell death can result in fibrosis. Progressive liver fibrosis may lead to the development of cirrhosis in a small proportion of patients. With the growing prevalence of NAFLD, there is an increasing need for a robust, accurate and non-invasive approach to diagnosing the different stages of this condition. This review will focus on (1) the biochemical tests and imaging techniques used to diagnose the different stages of NAFLD; and (2) a selection of the current management approaches focusing on lifestyle interventions and pharmacological therapies for NAFLD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy
  • Disease Management
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / therapy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diagnosis*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / therapy*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Pioglitazone / therapeutic use
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • Weight Reduction Programs


  • Antioxidants
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Vitamin E
  • Pioglitazone