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Diagnosis and management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  1. Erica Jennison1,
  2. Janisha Patel2,
  3. Eleonora Scorletti3,
  4. Christopher D Byrne4
  1. 1 Chemical Pathology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  2. 2 Hepatology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  3. 3 Human Development and Health, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  4. 4 The Institute of Developmental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Erica Jennison, Chemical Pathology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK; erica.jennison{at}


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease in Western industrialised countries. The prevalence of NAFLD is increasing in parallel with the global rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. NAFLD represents a spectrum of liver disease severity. NAFLD begins with accumulation of triacylglycerols in the liver (steatosis), and is defined by hepatic fatty infiltration amounting to greater than 5% by liver weight or the presence of over 5% of hepatocytes loaded with large fat vacuoles. In almost a quarter of affected individuals, steatosis progresses with the development of liver inflammation to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is a potentially progressive liver condition and with ongoing liver injury and cell death can result in fibrosis. Progressive liver fibrosis may lead to the development of cirrhosis in a small proportion of patients. With the growing prevalence of NAFLD, there is an increasing need for a robust, accurate and non-invasive approach to diagnosing the different stages of this condition. This review will focus on (1) the biochemical tests and imaging techniques used to diagnose the different stages of NAFLD; and (2) a selection of the current management approaches focusing on lifestyle interventions and pharmacological therapies for NAFLD.

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  • Contributors EJ wrote the article, performed the literature search and is the guarantor. CDB was asked to write the article by the PMJ editorial team and helped to write the article. JP and ES helped in the writing and editing of the article.

  • Funding CDB is supported in part by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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