1 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts (H.L., Z.G.J., E.E.R.).
2 Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, Michigan (E.B.T.).
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a common diagnosis in the United States and other developed countries, has been increasing in prevalence. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recently published updated practice guidelines for diagnosing and managing NAFLD, including the following recommendations: Routine screening for NAFLD in high-risk groups is not advised because of uncertainties surrounding test and treatment options, along with a lack of knowledge about cost-effectiveness and long-term benefits. Noninvasive studies, including biomarkers from laboratory tests and liver stiffness measured through elastography, are clinically useful tools for identifying advanced fibrosis in patients with NAFLD. Liver biopsy should be considered in patients with NAFLD who are at increased risk for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or advanced fibrosis. Weight loss of at least 3% to 5% generally reduces NASH, but greater weight loss (7% to 10%) is needed to improve most histopathologic features, including fibrosis. Pharmacologic therapies (such as pioglitazone and vitamin E) should be considered only in patients with biopsy-proven NASH. Patients with NAFLD should not consume heavy amounts of alcohol, although insufficient data exist to provide advice about other levels of alcohol use. Here, 2 clinicians with expertise in this area debate whether to screen for NAFLD in primary care, how to monitor patients with NAFLD, and what interventions should be used to manage this condition.