Prevalence and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are underestimated in clinical practice: impact of a dedicated screening approach at a large university teaching hospital.
Marjot T., Sbardella E., Moolla A., Hazlehurst JM., Tan GD., Ainsworth M., Cobbold JFL., Tomlinson JW.
AIMS: To define the attitudes and current clinical practice of diabetes specialists with regard to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and, based on the results, implement an evidenced-based pathway for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease assessment. METHODS: An online survey was disseminated to diabetes specialists. Based on findings from this survey, we sought a local solution by launching an awareness campaign and implementing a screening algorithm across all diabetes clinics at a secondary/tertiary referral centre. RESULTS: A total of 133 diabetes specialists responded to the survey. Fewer than 5% of responders correctly assessed the prevalence and severity of advanced fibrotic non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in people with diabetes as 50-75%. Whilst most clinicians performed liver function tests, only 5.7% responded stating that they would use, or had used, a non-invasive algorithm to stage the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Implementing a local non-alcoholic fatty liver disease awareness campaign and screening strategy using pre-printed blood request forms, we ensured that 100% (n=395) of all people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus attending secondary/tertiary care diabetes clinics over a 6-month period were appropriately screened for advanced fibrotic non-alcoholic fatty liver disease using the Fib-4 index; 17.9% required further investigation or assessment. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are underestimated among diabetes specialists. The Fib-4 index can easily be incorporated into clinical practice in secondary/tertiary care to identify those individuals at risk of advanced fibrosis who require further assessment and who may benefit from a dedicated multidisciplinary approach to their management.