Portal Hypertension Complications Are Frequently the First Presentation of NAFLD in Patients Undergoing Liver Transplantation Evaluation
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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is likely to replace Hepatitis C as the leading cause of cirrhosis resulting in liver transplantation (LT) within a few years. Unfortunately, due to the lack of established guidelines for the screening of NAFLD in high-risk populations, many patients present with portal hypertension complications as their first manifestation of NAFLD require a LT evaluation. We aimed to investigate what proportion of patients who underwent LT for NAFLD-cirrhosis had knowledge of their liver disease prior to presenting with portal hypertension complications and to identify differences in clinical parameters between those with and without knowledge of preexisting NAFLD.
Consecutive patients who underwent LT for NAFLD-cirrhosis at a tertiary referral center were included in the study. Demographic and clinical data at the time of the first LT evaluation visit were collected, and patient knowledge of previous NAFLD was documented. Ascites, variceal bleeding, hepatic encephalopathy, and thrombocytopenia leading to diagnosis of underlying cirrhosis were considered as the presenting symptoms of portal hypertension. A p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
A total of 124 subjects who received LT for NAFLD-cirrhosis were included, 58 % (n = 72) were male. At the time of the first LT evaluation visit, 60 % had diabetes, the mean body mass index was 33.2 [28.6, 37.6] kg/m2, and the mean Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score was 14.0 [11.0, 19.0]. More importantly, 85/124 patients (68.5 %) had no knowledge of preexisting NAFLD prior to presentation with symptoms of portal hypertension. The presenting symptoms were new-onset ascites in 61 %, hepatic encephalopathy in 25 %, variceal bleeding in 18 %, thrombocytopenia in 9 %, and other in 9 % (non-exclusive). Patients with no prior knowledge of NAFLD were less likely to have a diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia (30 vs. 50 %, p = 0.035) and had a trend toward having higher MELD scores at the time of the first LT evaluation visit (15 vs. 13.5, p = 0.05) and presenting with encephalopathy (25 vs. 10 %, p = 0.06) compared to those with previous knowledge of NAFLD diagnosis.
The majority of patients undergoing liver transplant evaluation for NAFLD-cirrhosis are not aware of underlying NAFLD until they present with features of portal hypertension. New guidelines should consider screening for NAFLD in certain high-risk groups as more effective treatments for NAFLD are emerging.
KeywordsNonalcoholic steatohepatitis Cryptogenic cirrhosis Liver transplantation Portal hypertension
This study was supported by the ACG Junior Faculty Development Award to N.A.
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Conflict of interest
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