Natural history of nonalcoholic steathepatitis: A longitudinal study of repeat liver biopsies

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Abstract

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis may cause severe fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma, but supporting evidence is based on indirect data. Few publications have examined the results of repeat liver biopsies to evaluate progression of fibrosis. The aims of this study were to assess rate of fibrosis progression in untreated patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and to identify associated variables. Among 106 patients, a second liver biopsy was proposed to those who had undergone their first liver biopsy at least 3 years before. None of them had been given pharmacological therapy. Liver biopsy samples were evaluated blindly. Variables were compared between patients with (group P) and without (group NP) fibrosis progression, using a Wilcoxon rank-sum test for numerical variables and a difference of two binomial proportions for categorical ones. Twenty-two patients (median age, 45 years; age range, 20–69 years; 13 women; diabetes in 8 patients, obesity in 10 patients) underwent a second liver biopsy 4.3 years (range, 3.0–14.3 years) after the first. Fibrosis progression was found in 7 patients in group P (31.8%), no progression was found in 15 patients in group NP. There were no differences between both groups regarding age, gender, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, ALT levels, AST-to-ALT ratio levels, albumin levels, prothrombin activity, steatosis, or inflammation. Obesity was significantly more prevalent in group P (86%) than in group NP (27%; P = .01). Basal body mass index was higher in group NP (median, 33.2; range, 29.1–38.2) than in group NP (median, 29.0; range, 24.0–38.1; P = .024). Time between biopsies was not different between groups. In conclusion, progression of liver fibrosis was found in a third of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis patients 4.3 years after the first liver biopsy, and obesity and body mass index were the only associated factors with such progression. (Hepatology 2004;40:820–826).