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BACKGROUND - Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease in the United States, yet little is known about NAFLD awareness in individuals with incidental fatty liver on imaging.
OBJECTIVE - To assess the level of awareness of imaging-defined NAFLD among individuals with and without metabolic risk factors.
DESIGN - Cross-sectional analysis within a prospective longitudinal population-based cohort study conducted in four U.S. cities.
PARTICIPANTS - Adults age 43 to 55 years enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study who underwent computed tomography and a personal health questionnaire at the year 25 exam (2010-2011, n = 2788).
MAIN MEASURES - NAFLD was defined as liver attenuation ≤ 51 Hounsfield units after exclusion of other causes of liver fat. Participants were considered "NAFLD aware" if they reported being told previously by a doctor or nurse that they had "fatty liver."
KEY RESULTS - NAFLD prevalence was 23.9%. Only 16 of 667 (2.4%) participants with CT-defined NAFLD were aware of a NAFLD diagnosis. NAFLD aware participants were more likely to be white (81.3% vs. 53.5%, p = 0.03) and have the metabolic syndrome (87.5% vs. 59.3%, p = 0.02) and/or hypertension (75.0% vs. 50.2%, p = 0.05). In multivariable analyses adjusted for demographics, metabolic syndrome and hypertension remained predictive of NAFLD awareness.
CONCLUSION - There is low awareness of NAFLD among individuals with hepatic steatosis on imaging, even among those with metabolic risk factors. These findings highlight an opportunity to raise public and practitioner awareness of NAFLD with the goal of increasing diagnosis and implementing early treatment strategies.