1Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org.
2Global Liver Institute, Washington, DC, USA.
3Novo Nordisk Inc, Plainsboro, NJ, USA.
4Department of Medicine, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids, MI, USA.
Background: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the inflammatory subtype of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, is underdiagnosed and expected to become the leading indication for liver transplant in the United States. We aimed to understand the medical journey of patients with NASH and role of hepatologists/gastroenterologists in diagnosing and treating patients with NASH.
Methods: A United States population-based cross-sectional online survey was completed by 226 healthcare professionals (HCPs) who treat patients with NASH and 152 patients with NASH; this study focuses on the patient and 75 hepatologist/gastroenterologist HCP respondents. Tests of differences (chi square, t-tests) between respondent types were performed using SPSS.
Results: Most patients reported receiving their diagnosis of NASH from a hepatologist (37%) or gastroenterologist (26%). Hepatologists/gastroenterologists were more likely than other HCPs to use FibroScan (transient elastography) to diagnose NASH and were more likely to distinguish between NASH with or without fibrosis. Hepatologists/gastroenterologists (68%) and patients (52%) agree that hepatologists/gastroenterologists are the primary coordinators of NASH care. The majority of hepatologists/gastroenterologists (85%) are aware of American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) clinical practice guidance, and 86% of those aware consider them when diagnosing patients with NASH. Hepatologists/gastroenterologists most frequently recommended exercise (86%), diet (70%), and supplements (58%) for ongoing management of NASH. Pharmaceutical medications for comorbidities were prescribed by a minority of hepatologists/gastroenterologists for their patients with NASH. Hepatologists/gastroenterologists cite difficulty (67%) or unwillingness (64%) to adhere to lifestyle changes as primary reasons patients with NASH discontinue NASH treatment.
Conclusions: Hepatologists/gastroenterologists are considered the coordinators of NASH care. While recognizing that patient adherence to lifestyle changes is the basis for successful treatment, important barriers limit successful implementation.