Alcohol in the Setting of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Briefly noted: V Ajmera et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2018; 16: 1511-20.  This study with 285 participants showed that modest alcohol consumption was associated with a lower odds of NASH resolution on biopsy over 4 years compared with no alcohol consumption (OR 0.32). The associated editorial (pg 1404-6) provides a table with 8 studies that reveal conflicting results on this issue.

My take (borrowed from editorial): “Clinicians should not recommend modest drinking” as a way of improving liver health.

Related review article:D Fuster, JH Samet. “Alcohol Use in Patients with Chronic Liver Disease”  NEJM 2018; 379: 1251-61. For NAFLD (and all chronic liver disease): “abstinence should be the goal.”

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Pediatric NAFLD: You Don’t Have to be Obese/Overweight to Have Fatty Liver Disease (but it helps)

A recent study (P Kumar et al. JPGN 2018; 67: 75-9) examined suspected NAFLD in 12 to 18 year olds using data from NHANES. In the analysed cohort, there were 124 suspected NAFLD and 1385 without suspicion of NAFLD.  This subset was weight to represent a U.S. population of over 18 million.

Key definitions:

  • Suspected NAFLD was defined by abnormal ALT (>25.8 U/L for boys and >22.1 U/L for girls) who did not have another explanation (eg. viral hepatitis, medication)
  • Lean BMI was defined by BMI less than 85th% for age
  • Hypertriglyceridemia ≥ 150
  • Low HDL ≤ 40 mg/dL
  • HOMA-IR =fasting glucose x insulin (microU/mL) divided by 405. Insulin resistance was defined as HOMA-IR ≥ 3

Key findings:

  • Suspected NAFLD affects ~8% of lean adolescents in the U.S.
  • Hypertriglyceridemia was noted in 10 of 124 suspected NAFLD and was a risk factor (P=0.028) as was Low HDL which occurred in 15 (P=0.016) and IR which occurred in 43 (P=0.053)

My take: Elevated ALT, a marker for fatty liver disease, is common even in adolescents without obesity. Elevated triglycerides, low HDL, and insulin resistance are all risk factors for suspected NAFLD in non-overweight/non-obese teens.

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Pilot Study: Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea with Beneficial Effects on Fatty Liver Disease in Children

Briefly noted: A small pilot study (n=9) (SS Sundaram et al. J Pediatr 2018; 198: 67-75) showed that treatment (with home CPAP) of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was associated with improved alanine aminotransferase levels, reduced metabolic syndrome markers and lower F(2)-isoprostanes (a marker of oxidative stress) in pediatric patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). All nine of the participants were Hispanic males with a median age of 11.5 years; they had a median BMI of 29.5 and had biopsy-proven NAFLD. The improvement in NAFLD parameters occurred despite an increase in BMI. The authors note that studies in adults have shown contradictory findings with regard to whether treatment of OSA helps NAFLD.

My take: This study suggests potential beneficial liver effects of treating OSA.  Regardless, treatment of OSA could be considered a quality metric in the care of children with NAFLD as better sleep at night has additional clear benefits.

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Possible Quality Metric for Fatty Liver Disease: Dyslipidemia

With nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), it is well-documented that adverse cardiovascular events influence mortality more than any other factor.  Dyslipidemia plays an important role in these outcomes.

A recent study (KE Harlow et al. J Pediatr 2018; article in press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.02.038) indicates that “clinically actionable dyslipidemia” is present in more than half of pediatric patients with NAFLD.

This multicenter, longitudinal cohort study included children (n=585) with NAFLD enrolled in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network.

Key findings:

  • The prevalence of children warranting intervention for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol at baseline was 14%. After 1 year of recommended dietary changes, 51% achieved goal low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, 27% qualified for enhanced dietary and lifestyle modifications, and 22% met criteria for pharmacologic intervention
  • Elevated triglycerides were more prevalent, with 51% meeting criteria for intervention at baseline. At 1 year, 25% achieved goal triglycerides with diet and lifestyle changes, 38% met criteria for advanced dietary modifications, and 37% qualified for antihyperlipidemic medications.

My take: Assessing/managing dyslipidemia is an important component of NAFLD care.

Link to abstract: Clinically Actionable Hypercholesterolemia and Hypertriglyceridemia in Children with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

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Liver Articles -Spring 2018

C Sikavi et al. Hepatology 2018; 67: 847-57.  This systematic review highlights that the combination of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and HIV infection is no longer a difficult-to-treat population with the implementation of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). There are similar sustained virologic responses (SVRs) among those with and those without HIV.  In clinical trials, patients with combined HCV-HIV had SVRs of 93.5-98% with DAA treatment; “real-world cohorts” had SVRs of 90.9%-98%.

MS Middleton et al. Hepatology 2018; 67: 858-72.  Using data from the prospective CyNCh trial (cysteamine for NAFLD), the authors examined MRIs for diagnostic accuracy among 169 enrolled children.  In this group, 110 (65%) and 83 (49%) had MRI and liver biopsy at baseline. MRI-PDFF (proton density fat fraction) was able to classify grade 1 steatosis from grade 2-3 steatosis with area under receiving operator characteristic curve of 0.87.  Thus, this study shows MRI-estimated PDFF has high diagnostic accuracy.

G Mieli-Vergani et al. JPGN 2018; 66: 345-60.  Position paper for Pediatric Autoimmune Liver Disease (AIH, ASC, de novo AIH after liver transplantation). This is a very useful review.  A couple of pointers from the authors:

  • “Present experience with budesonide as the first-line treatment is limited and does not appear to offer clear clinical advantage over the standard treatment”[prednisone]
  • Fecal calprotectin should be obtained to evaluate for IBD in patients with autoimmune liver disease, “even in asymptomatic children.”

JM Cotter et al. JPGN 2018; 66: 227-33. This retrospective study with 39 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) showed a lack of correlation between liver tests and fibrosis at presentation.  Average age of PSC diagnosis was 11.2 years, 74% had inflammatory bowel disease and 51% had autoimmune hepatitis. Related blog post: Big Pediatric PSC Study (with 781 children)

Mechanisms in Fatty Liver Disease Improved After Bariatric Surgery

A recent prospective study (V Nobili et al. J Pediatr 2018; 194: 100-8) consecutively enrolled 20 severely obese adolescents with biopsy-proven nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The authors used liver histology, immunohistochemistry and cytokine analysis to assess the changes (after 12 months) induced by bariatric surgery with laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy (LSG).

Key findings:

  • NAFLD Activity Score and fibrosis improved after LSG. Steatosis, hepatocyte ballooning, and NAS score showed a significant improvement (Z=-2.7; P=.007) at 12 months following surgery. Fibrosis improvement (Z=-2.449) was noted as well.
  • The histologic improvement “is associated with activation of local cellular compartments (hepatic progenitor cells, hepatic stellate cells, and macrophages), thus, strengthening the role of cellular interactions and hepatic adipocytokine production in the pathogenesis of NAFLD.”

This study has a large number of figures illustrating the changes in liver architecture and immunohistochemistry changes.

My take: This study shows specific improvements following LSG and shows correlation with cytokines and immunohistochemistry providing a mechanistic explanation for these improvements.

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How Successful is Liver Transplantation for Fatty Liver Disease?

A recent guideline update (ZM Younossi. Liver Transplantation 2018; 24: 166-70) provides some useful information about nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and liver transplantation (LT).

Key points:

  • “Despite metabolic comorbidities, posttransplant outcomes of NASH patients are generally good.  In fact, 1-, 3-, and 5-year patient and graft survival rates are …similar to other liver diseases.”
  • NASH/NAFLD can recur following LT…”NASH with significant fibrosis (stage ≥2) occurs in approximately 5% of recipients by 5 years after transplantation.”
  • Additional issues to manage after LT, include weight management, and metabolic conditions including diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.  All of these conditions can be affected by specific immunosuppressants.  For example, calcineurin inhibitors and corticosteroids can exacerbate type 2 diabetes mellitus.

My take: This article indicates better LT outcomes than I expected in patients with NASH/NAFLD.

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