Pediatric Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a spectrum of chronic disorders that cause an accumulation of extra fat in the liver. It is most often found in children and people who drink little or no alcohol.
Over time, the extra fat can cause inflammation and scarring of the liver. When that happens, the disease becomes known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Pediatric NAFLD is common in the United States, affecting 10% of children. The exact cause of NAFLD and NASH is unknown.
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen
- Weight loss
Tests and Diagnosis
There are several tests to diagnose NAFLD and NASH in children. A doctor will go over your child's medical history and perform a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may also perform one or more of the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound: a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to take pictures of your child’s body
- CT scan: a noninvasive test that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of your child’s body
- MRI: a noninvasive test that uses magnetic fields to produce images of your child’s body
- Liver biopsy: removal of a small amount of tissue from your child’s liver using a needle. The tissue is later examined under a microscope.
Not every child needs all these tests. Your physician will tell you exactly what the next steps are.
The progression of your child's NAFLD or NASH will determine the treatment. Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Lifestyle changes - which may include weight loss, a healthy diet, exercise and controlling diabetes
- Liver transplant
For more information on NAFLD, refer to the following resources: