Fatty Liver at Birth

A provocative study (Patel KR, White FV, Deutsh GH. JPGN 2015; 60: 152-58) shows that hepatic steatosis/fatty liver is prevalent at birth in at-risk stillborns.

The authors retrospectively examined autospy results from 33 stillborns (20-40 weeks) delivered to women with diabetes (pregestational or gestational) along with 48 age-matched controls.  The majority of women (54%) were African American women; 27% were white and 9% were hispanic.

Key findings:

  • Hepatic steatosis was common and severe in the stillborns of diabetic women.  Prevalence: 78.8% (26/33) compared with 16.6% (8/48) of controls.
  • No direct correlation was identified between steatosis and glycemic control.

Whether nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) begins at birth is not known and what happens to the fat in newborns with hepatic steatosis is not clear.  This study indicates that maternal diabetes may increase the risk of NAFLD.

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