Association between fibrosis stage and outcomes of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Rod S. Taylor*, Rebecca J. Taylor, Sue Bayliss, Hannes Hagström, Patrik Nasr, Jorn M. Schattenberg, Masatoshi Ishigami, Hidenori Toyoda, Vincent Wai-sun Wong, Noam Peleg, Amir Shlomai, Giada Sebastiani, Yuya Seko, Neeraj Bhala, Zobair M. Younossi, Quentin M. Anstee, Stuart Mcpherson, Philip N. Newsome

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background & Aims: Biopsy-confirmed liver fibrosis is a prognostic factor for patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We performed a systematic review to quantify the prognostic value of fibrosis stage in patients with NAFLD and the subgroup of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and to assess the evidence that change in fibrosis stage is a surrogate endpoint.

Methods: We searched the MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, and trial registry databases through August 2018 for prospective or retrospective cohort studies of liver-related clinical events and outcomes in adults with NAFLD or NASH. We collected data on mortality (all cause and liver related) and morbidity (cirrhosis, liver cancer, and all liver-related events) by stage of fibrosis, determined by biopsy, for patients with NAFLD or NASH. Using fibrosis stage 0 as a reference population, we calculated fibrosis stage-specific relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) values for mortality and morbidities. We performed fixed-effect and random-effect model meta-analyses. Metaregression was used to examine associations among study design (prospective vs retrospective cohort), overall risk of bias (medium or high), and mean duration of follow-up (in years).

Results: Our meta-analysis included 13 studies, comprising 4428 patients with NAFLD; 2875 of these were reported to have NASH. Compared with no fibrosis (stage 0), unadjusted risk increased with increasing stage of fibrosis (stage 0 vs 4): all-cause mortality RR, 3.42 (95% CI, 2.63–4.46); liver-related mortality RR, 11.13 (95% CI, 4.15–29.84); liver transplant RR, 5.42 (95% CI, 1.05–27.89); and liver-related events RR, 12.78 (95% CI, 6.85–23.85). The magnitude of RR did not differ significantly after adjustment for confounders, including age or sex in the subgroup of NAFLD patients with NASH. Three studies examined the effects of increasing fibrosis on quality of life had inconsistent findings.

Conclusions: In a systematic review and meta-analysis, we found biopsy-confirmed fibrosis to be associated with risk of mortality and liver-related morbidity in patients with NAFLD, with and without adjustment for confounding factors and in patients with reported NASH. Further studies are needed to assess the association between fibrosis stage and patient quality of life and establish that change in liver fibrosis stage is a valid endpoint for use in clinical trials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1611-1625.e12
Number of pages27
Issue number6
Early online date4 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • biomarker
  • disease progression
  • prognosis
  • liver disease
  • Biomarker
  • Prognosis
  • Liver Disease
  • Disease Progression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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