Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis: the new frontier for liver transplantation

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a growing cause of chronic liver disease globally and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is projected to become the most common indication for liver transplantation. The purpose of this review is to highlight key issues surrounding NAFLD as an indication for liver transplantation, including its increasing prevalence, outcomes related to liver transplantation, development of post liver transplant NAFLD and NAFLD in the liver donor pool.

Recent findings

With the advent of direct-acting antiviral therapies, the proportion of patients on the liver transplant list or undergoing liver transplant for chronic hepatitis C infection is steadily decreasing. In contrast, the number transplants performed for NAFLD is increasing. By 2030, it is estimated that the incidence of decompensated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma will increase by 168 and 137%, respectively, and the number of deaths will increase by 178%.

Summary

Liver transplantation cures cirrhosis but does not treat the underlying metabolic disease associated with NAFLD. Thus, strategies to control comorbidities in patients with NAFLD prior to transplant are needed to decrease waitlist mortality and the recurrence of NAFLD after liver transplant. NAFLD in the donor pool is also a growing concern. Strategies to minimize steatosis and expand the number of donors are critical to meet the growing demand for liver transplantation.

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