- 1Hepatology Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital , Rome, Italy.
- 2Research Unit of Molecular Genetics of Complex Phenotypes, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS , Rome, Italy.
Introduction: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a leading cause of liver disease in the pediatric population. It is a significant liver complication of obesity that also prominently affects children. Over the past decade, several non-invasive methods have been investigated for replacing liver biopsy to identify which children with NAFLD have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis. These methods that aim to differentiate the type and extent of liver damage are based on two main different methodologies: a 'biological' approach centered on the quantification of circulating biomarkers; and a 'physical' approach established by analyzing different imaging data.
Areas covered: In this review, we illustrate the state of the art and recent discoveries on non-invasive methods for the diagnosis of NAFLD, NASH and advanced fibrosis.
Expert opinion: Currently, non-invasive tests cannot diagnose NASH or determine the degree of fibrosis. However, several lines of evidence have suggested that if these tests are used in a complementary way with other laboratory tests and imaging they have the potential to be used to monitor progression of disease and response to therapy in pediatric NAFLD. Future scientific research will focus on combining these methods with multiple potential predictors of genetic susceptibility.