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Underrecognition of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Poorly Controlled Diabetes: A Call to Action in Diabetes Care.

Alexopoulos AS, Duffy R, Kobe EA, German J, Moylan CA, Soliman D, Jeffreys AS, Coffman CJ, Crowley MJ. Underrecognition of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Poorly Controlled Diabetes: A Call to Action in Diabetes Care. Journal of the Endocrine Society. 2021 Dec 1; 5(12):bvab155.

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Individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) are at high risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and evidence suggests that poor glycemic control is linked to heightened risk of progressive NAFLD. We conducted an observational study based on data from a telehealth trial conducted in 2018-2020. Our objectives were to (1) characterize patterns of NAFLD testing/care in a cohort of individuals with poorly controlled T2DM; and (2) explore how laboratory based measures of NAFLD (eg, liver enzymes, fibrosis-4 [FIB-4]) vary by glycemic control. We included individuals with poorly controlled T2DM (n = 228), defined as hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) = 8.5% despite clinic-based care. Two groups of interest were (1) T2DM without known NAFLD; and (2) T2DM with known NAFLD. Demographics, medical history, medication use, glycemic control (HbA1c), and NAFLD testing/care patterns were obtained by chart review. Among those without known NAFLD (n = 213), most were male (78.4%) and self-identified as Black race (68.5%). Mean HbA1c was 9.8%. Most had liver enzymes (85.4%) and platelets (84.5%) ordered in the outpatient department over a 2-year period that would allow for FIB-4 calculation, yet only 2 individuals had FIB-4 documented in clinical notes. Approximately one-third had abnormal liver enzymes at least once over a 2-year period, yet only 7% had undergone liver ultrasound and 4.7% had referral to hepatology. Among those with known NAFLD (n = 15), mean HbA1c was 9.5%. Only 4 individuals had undergone transient elastography, half of whom had advanced fibrosis. NAFLD is underrecognized in poorly controlled T2DM, even though this is a high-risk group for NAFLD and its complications.

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