Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a progressive form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that can lead to hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis. Portal fibrosis in the absence of NASH, called isolated portal fibrosis (IPF), has received less attention and has not been classified as a spectrum of NAFLD. The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of IPF in subjects undergoing gastric bypass surgery, to identify biochemical variables associated with IPF, and to assess the metabolic syndrome as defined by the Adult Treatment Panel III criteria. We analyzed liver biopsies from 195 morbidly obese subjects after excluding all other causes of liver disease. The prevalence of fatty liver (FL) only, IPF, and NASH was 30.3%, 33.3%, and 36.4%, respectively. Several biochemical parameters significantly trended across the 3 groups, with IPF falling between FL and NASH. Hyperglycemia was the only metabolic parameter associated with NASH (OR, 5.4; 95% CI, 2.4-12; P < .0001) and IPF (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.2-6.5; P = .01). Subjects with diabetes had the greatest risk for NASH (OR, 8; 95% CI, 3.3-19.7; P < .0001) and IPF (OR, 4.3; 95% CI, 1.6-11.6; P = .003). The metabolic syndrome was identified in 78.5% of subjects, and a significant trend for the number of metabolic criteria was observed across the spectrum of FL, IPF, and NASH. In conclusion, a significant subset of morbidly obese individuals has portal fibrosis in the absence of NASH that is associated with glycemic dysregulation. Therefore, IPF should be considered a spectrum of NAFLD that may prelude NASH in morbid obesity.
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