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Evidence of NAFLD progression from steatosis to fibrosing-steatohepatitis using paired biopsies: Implications for prognosis and clinical management

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stuart McPhersonORCiD, Dr Timothy Hardy, Elsbeth Henderson, Professor Alastair BurtORCiD, Professor Chris Day, Professor Quentin AnsteeORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Background and Aims: There remains uncertainty about the natural history of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The spectrum of NAFLD includes non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL; steatosis without hepatocellular injury) and steatohepatitis (NASH; steatosis with hepatocyte ballooning degeneration +/- fibrosis). Our aim was to assess the histological severity of NAFLD in a cohort with serial biopsy data, and determine factors predicting progression.Methods: Patients with two liver biopsies more than a year apart were identified. Clinical and laboratory data were collected from the time of liver biopsy.Results: 108 patients had serial biopsies (median interval 6.6 years, range 1.3-22.6). 81 (75%) patients had NASH and 27 had NAFL. Overall, 45 (42%) patients had fibrosis progression, 43 (40%) had no change in fibrosis, while 20 (18%) had fibrosis regression. Importantly, no significant difference in the proportion exhibiting fibrosis progression was found between those with NAFL or NASH at index biopsy (37% vs. 43%, p = 0.65). Progression to NASH was seen in 44% of patients with baseline NAFL. Of 10 patients with NAFL who had fibrosis progression, 3 progressed by 1 stage, 5 by 2 stages and 2 by 3 stages; all had NASH on follow-up biopsy. Of concern, 6 of 27 (22%) patients with baseline NAFL, reached stage 3 fibrosis at follow-up biopsy. Among the patients with NAFL, 80% of those having fibrosis progression were diabetic at the follow-up liver biopsy compared with 25% of non-progressors (p = 0.005).Conclusions: Contrary to current dogma, this study suggests that steatosis can progress to NASH and clinically significant fibrosis. (C) 2014 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McPherson S, Hardy T, Henderson E, Burt AD, Day CP, Anstee QM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hepatology

Year: 2015

Volume: 62

Issue: 5

Pages: 1148-1155

Print publication date: 01/05/2015

Online publication date: 01/12/2014

Acceptance date: 23/11/2014

Date deposited: 22/09/2015

ISSN (print): 0168-8278

ISSN (electronic): 1600-0641

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2014.11.034


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