Utility of noninvasive methods for the characterization of nonalcoholic liver steatosis in the family practice. The "VARES" Italian multicenter study

Ignazio Grattagliano, Enzo Ubaldi, Luigi Napoli, Carlo Fedele Marulli, Cristina Nebiacolombo, Carmelo Cottone, Piero Portincasa
Annals of Hepatology 2013, 12 (1): 70-7
The diagnostic utilities of ultrasonography (US), fatty liver index (FLI) and an algorithm of nine serum markers (Fibromax) were evaluated in family practice to noninvasively characterize patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A multicenter study was conducted by enrolling 259 consecutively observed patients (age 51 ± 10 years) with clinical and ultrasonographic features of NAFLD . Patients had mild (16.2%), moderate (69.9%), or severe (13.9%) liver steatosis and 60.2% had hypertransaminasemia. The percent of patients with overweight, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia were 42.7%, 46.5% (4.2% severe obesity), 24.7%, 40.9%, and 56.4% , respectively. Lean patients (10.8%) had normal transaminases in two/thirds of the cases. A multivariate logistic regression (including age > 50 yrs, BMI > 30 kg/m2, HOMA > 3, and hypertransaminasemia) identified 12.3% of patients at risk for steatohepatitis. With a sensitivity of 50% and specificity of 94.7%, Fibromax identified 34 patients (13.1%) with likely advanced fibrosis and found that over 28% of patients with moderate (ultrasonographic) steatosis were likely to be carrying severe steatosis. Steatotest score was significantly associated with BMI, waist circumference, ALT, triglycerides, and FLI. Fibrotest correlated only with ALT. FLI identified 73.4% of patients as likely to be carrying a fatty liver. In conclusion, NAFLD should be systematically searched and characterized in all patients with metabolic disturbances and cardiovascular risk. Asymptomatic subjects at risk also should be screened for NAFLD. Fibromax is a promising noninvasive diagnostic tool in family medicine for identifying patients at risk for NAFLD who require targeted follow-up.

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