Management of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Steatohepatitis

Thuy-Anh Le, Rohit Loomba
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology 2012, 2 (2): 156-73
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of abnormal liver enzymes and chronic liver disease in the US with expected rise in incidence paralleling the epidemic of obesity. A subset of patients with NAFLD have the progressive form of NAFLD that is termed non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is characterized by specific features on liver histology including hepatocellular ballooning degeneration, lobular inflammation, and zone-3 steatosis with or without peri-sinusoidal fibrosis. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis can progress to cirrhosis and result in liver-related death. Insulin resistance is commonly seen in patients with NASH and often co-exists with other features of the metabolic syndrome including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. Although weight loss through lifestyle modifications including dietary changes and increased physical exercise remains the backbone of management of NASH, it has proved challenging for patients to achieve and maintain weight loss goals. Thus, it is often necessary to couple lifestyle changes with another pharmacologic treatment for NASH. Insulin sensitizers including the biguanides (metformin), thiazolidinediones (pioglitazone and rosiglitazone), and glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (exenatide) are large groups of medications that have been studied for the treatment of NASH. Other agents with anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, or anti-fibrotic properties which have been studied in NASH include vitamin E, pentoxifylline, betaine, and ursodeoxycholic acid. This review will provide a detailed summary on the clinical data behind the full spectrum of treatments that exist for NASH and suggest management recommendations.

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