Functional and morphological vascular changes in pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been consistently found to be associated with features of the metabolic syndrome (MS), a condition carrying a high risk of cardiovascular events. The present study aimed to determine whether, in children and adolescents, NAFLD is atherogenic beyond its association with MS and its components. We assessed both flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery (FMD) and carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT), along with lipid profile, glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRPHS), in 250 obese children, 100 with and 150 without NAFLD, and 150 healthy normal-weight children. NAFLD was diagnosed by ultrasound examination and persistently elevated alanine aminotransferase, after exclusion of infectious and metabolic disorders. Compared to controls and children without liver involvement, those with ultrasound-diagnosed NAFLD (and elevated alanine aminotransferase) demonstrated significantly impaired FMD and increased cIMT. Patients with NAFLD had more features of MS and elevated CRPHS levels. In addition, percent FMD was remarkably reduced, whereas cIMT was increased in obese children with MS compared to those without MS. Using logistic regression analysis, the presence of NAFLD was found to be an independent predictor of low percent FMD (odds ratio, 2.25 [95% confidence interval, 1.29 to 3.92]; P = 0.004) as well as of increased cIMT (1.98 [1.16 to 3.36]; P = 0.031), after adjustment for age, gender, Tanner stage, and presence of MS. When we analyzed the relations between cIMT and measures of FMD in patients with NAFLD, the disease was associated with increased cIMT in children with impaired FMD status. Conclusion: The presence of liver disease entails more severe functional and anatomic changes in the arterial wall. Its detection may help identify individuals with increased cardiometabolic risk. (HEPATOLOGY 2010.)