A condition involving excess fat buildup in the liver is grossly underdiagnosed in the United States, according to an analysis of Medicare claims data. The condition, called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is often associated with obesity and is not related to alcohol consumption.
In the Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics analysis of information on 10,826,456 adults, the prevalence of NAFLD was 5.7%. NAFLD progressed to the more serious liver disease called cirrhosis in 39% of patients with NAFLD over 8 years of follow-up. Cardiovascular disease, kidney impairment, high cholesterol, and diabetes were linked with higher risks of disease progression.
"The study provides us with evidence regarding the real world natural history of NAFLD and long-term clinical outcomes," said lead author Rohit Loomba, MBBS, of the University of California, San Diego.