Liver enzyme levels and hepatic iron content in Fatty liver: a noninvasive assessment in general population by T2* mapping

Amir Reza Radmard, Hossein Poustchi, Mehrdad Dadgostar, Ali Yoonessi, Soheil Kooraki, Elham Jafari, Amir Pejman Hashemi Taheri, Reza Malekzadeh, Shahin Merat
Academic Radiology 2015, 22 (6): 714-21

RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVES: Existing evidence suggests potential contribution of iron in pathogenesis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We aimed to investigate whether hepatic iron content correlates with liver enzyme levels in NAFLD using a noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Subjects from Golestan Cohort Study were randomly selected. Diagnosis of NAFLD was made by combination of ultrasound and MRI. Subjects with NAFLD were divided into two groups with high (H-NAFLD) and low (L-NAFLD) enzyme level according to 95th percentile of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) value in normal population. Quantitative T2* maps of entire cross-sectional area of liver were calculated on pixel-by-pixel basis using a semiautomated software.

RESULTS: A total of 207 subjects were enrolled. Mean T2* values were significantly lower in NAFLD group than controls (P < .001) indicating higher iron content. Male subjects with H-NAFLD had statistically lower T2* values than those with L-NAFLD in multivariate analysis (odds ratio, 0.74; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58-0.95), whereas this was not observed in women. Unlike women, there was significant negative correlation between ALT levels and T2* values in men with H-NAFLD (r = -0.66, P = .01). Every 1-millisecond decrement in T2* value was associated with 6.37 IU/L increase in ALT level (95% CI, 1.8-10.9, P = .01) in men with H-NAFLD.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher hepatic iron in men with H-NAFLD, estimated by T2* mapping, may support the role of iron in possible progression of simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Lack of such correlation in women could be attributed to relatively lower iron storage or other mechanisms rather than iron.

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