- 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Harvard Medical School Boston MA USA.
- 2Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology University Hospital of Lausanne and University of Lausanne Lausanne Switzerland.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major public health problem worldwide and the most common chronic liver disease. NAFLD currently affects approximately one in every four people in the United States, and its global burden is expected to rise in the next decades. Despite being a prevalent disease in the general population, only a minority of patients with NAFLD will develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with advanced liver fibrosis (stage 3-4 fibrosis) and liver-related complications. Certain populations, such as patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), are recognized to be at the highest risk for developing NASH and advanced fibrosis. Both the American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes recommend screening of all T2DM for NAFLD. Incorporating a simple noninvasive algorithm into the existing diabetic care checklists in the primary care practice or diabetologist's office would efficiently identify patients at high risk who should be referred to specialists. The proposed algorithm involves a first-step annual fibrosis-4 score (FIB-4) followed by vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE) for those with indeterminate or high-risk score (FIB-4 ≥1.3). Patients at low-risk (FIB-4 <1.3 or VCTE <8 kPa) can be followed up by primary care providers for lifestyle changes and yearly calculation of FIB-4, while patients at high risk (FIB-4 ≥1.3 and VCTE ≥8 kPa) should be referred to a liver-specialized center. Conclusion: Patients with T2DM or prediabetes should be screened for NASH and advanced fibrosis. The proposed simple algorithm can be easily incorporated into the existing workflow in the primary care or diabetology clinic to identify patients at high risk for NASH and advanced fibrosis who should be referred to liver specialists.