A prospective study on the prevalence of NAFLD, advanced fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in people with type 2 diabetes

J Hepatol. 2023 Mar;78(3):471-478. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2022.11.010. Epub 2022 Nov 19.


Background & aims: There are limited prospective data on patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) specifically enrolled and systematically assessed for advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Therefore, we aimed to evaluate the prevalence of advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis in a prospectively recruited cohort of adults with T2DM.

Methods: This prospective study enrolled adults aged ≥50 years with T2DM, recruited from primary care or endocrinology clinics. Participants underwent a standardized clinical research visit with MRI-proton density fat fraction (MRI-PDFF), magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE) and controlled-attenuation parameter. NAFLD was defined as MRI-PDFF ≥5% after exclusion of other liver diseases. Advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis were defined by established liver stiffness cut-off points on MRE or VCTE if MRE was not available.

Results: Of 524 patients screened, 501 adults (63% female) with T2DM met eligibility. The mean age and BMI were 64.6 (±8.1) years and 31.4 (±5.9) kg/m2, respectively. The prevalence of NAFLD, advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis was 65%, 14% and 6%, respectively. In multivariable adjusted models, adjusted for age and sex, obesity and insulin use were associated with increased odds of advanced fibrosis (odds ratio 2.50; 95% CI 1.38-4.54; p = 0.003 and odds ratio 2.71; 95% CI 1.33-5.50; p = 0.006, respectively). Among 29 patients with cirrhosis, two were found to have hepatocellular carcinoma and one patient had gallbladder adenocarcinoma.

Conclusion: Utilizing a uniquely well-phenotyped prospective cohort of patients aged ≥50 years with T2DM, we found that the prevalence of advanced fibrosis was 14% and that of cirrhosis was 6%. These data underscore the high risk of advanced fibrosis/cirrhosis in adults aged ≥50 years with T2DM.

Impact and implications: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is common in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM), however, there are limited prospective data characterizing the prevalence of advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis using the most accurate non-invasive biomarkers of liver fat and fibrosis. We show that 14% of older adults with T2DM have advanced fibrosis and 6% have cirrhosis, which places them at risk for liver failure and liver cancer. Accurate prevalence rates and comparative analysis regarding the diagnostic accuracy of non-invasive tests in this population will guide the optimal screening strategy and future cost-effectiveness analyses. These results will inform future Hepatology and Endocrinology practice guidelines regarding NAFLD screening programs in older adults with T2DM.

Keywords: diabetes; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / epidemiology
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques* / methods
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Male
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies