Clinical characteristics and management of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in a real-world setting: analysis of the Ipsos NASH therapy monitor database

BMC Gastroenterol. 2023 May 19;23(1):160. doi: 10.1186/s12876-023-02794-4.


Background: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the more severe, inflammatory type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NASH, a leading indication for liver transplantation, is growing in prevalence. The extent of liver fibrosis, ranging from fibrosis stage (FS) of none (F0) to cirrhosis (F4), is a strong predictor of health outcomes. There is little information on patient demographics and clinical characteristics by fibrosis stage and NASH treatment outside of academic medical centers.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional observational study using Ipsos' syndicated NASH Therapy Monitor database, consisting of medical chart audits provided by sampled NASH-treating physicians in the United States in 2016 (n = 174) and 2017 (n = 164). Data was collected online.

Results: Of 2,366 patients reported on by participating physicians and included in the analysis, 68% had FS F0-F2, 21% had bridging fibrosis (F3), and 9% had cirrhosis (F4). Common comorbidities were type 2 diabetes (56%), hyperlipidemia (44%), hypertension (46%), and obesity (42%). Patients with more advanced fibrosis scores (F3-F4) had higher comorbidity rates than patients with F0-F2. Commonly used diagnostic tests included ultrasound (80%), liver biopsy (78%), AST/ALT ratio (43%), NAFLD fibrosis score (25%), transient elastography (23%), NAFLD liver fat score (22%), and Fatty Liver Index (19%). Most commonly prescribed medications were vitamin E (53%), statins (51%), metformin (47%), angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (28%), and beta blockers (22%). Medications were commonly prescribed for reasons other than their known effects.

Conclusion: Physicians in this study, drawn from a spectrum of practice settings, relied on ultrasound and liver biopsy for diagnosis and vitamin E, statins, and metformin for pharmacological treatment of NASH. These findings imply poor adherence to guidelines in the diagnosis and management of NAFLD and NASH. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a liver disease caused by excess fat in the liver which can lead to liver inflammation and scarring (fibrosis), ranging from stage F0 (no scarring) to F4 (advanced scarring). The stage of liver scarring can predict the likelihood of future health problems, including liver failure and liver cancer. However, we do not fully understand how patient characteristics may vary at different stages of liver scarring. We looked at medical information from physicians treating patients diagnosed with NASH to understand how patient characteristics might differ based on the severity of their liver scarring. The majority (68%) of patients were stage F0-F2, with 30% having advanced scarring (F3-F4). In addition to NASH, many patients also had type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. Patients with more advanced scarring (F3-F4) were more likely to have these diseases than patients with less severe disease (F0-F2). Diagnosis of NASH by participating physicians was based on tests including imaging (ultrasound, CT scan, MRI), liver biopsy, blood tests, and whether patients had other conditions that would put them at risk for NASH. The medications that the doctors prescribed most often to their patients included vitamin E and drugs to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Medications were frequently prescribed for reasons other than their known effects. By understanding how patient characteristics vary by stages of liver scarring and how NASH is currently managed may help guide the evaluation and treatment of NASH when NASH-specific therapies become available.

Keywords: Database; Demography; Liver cirrhosis; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors*
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Metformin*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / diagnosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / therapy
  • Obesity / complications


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Metformin
  • Cholesterol