Published: 02-05-2022 08:12 | Updated: 02-05-2022 08:14

Shorter life expectancy for people with fatty liver disease

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In a new study published in the journal Hepatology, a research group at Karolinska Institutet shows that people with fatty liver disease are expected to live almost three years shorter than the general population.

Ying Shang
Ying Shang, Department of Medicine, Huddinge. Photo: Private

People who have been diagnosed with so-called fatty liver, run an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and loss in life expectancy, compared to the general population. These patients have approximately a 2.8 years shorter expected survival, based on collected data from a large number of Swedish patients. However, the risk of death after a heart attack or stroke is still comparable to people whithout fatty liver.

The results of the study are important because they can be used to facilitate the communication between health care workers and patients with fatty liver.

"It will be easier to communicate around the expected survival of the patient and around the importance of the best possible treatment, which hopefully also can improve the patient's prognosis. In addition, the results indicate that you won't need to examine the liver to see if patients with heart attack or stroke are affected by fatty liver", says postdoc Ying Shang at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, Karolinska Institutet, the study's first author.

In this nationwide population-based cohort, a collection of extensive data links between national registries where made. Investigating a very large group of patients with fatty liver (> 10,000), the researchers were able to identify all patients with fatty liver in Sweden and compare these with the general population. 

Hannes Hagström
Hannes Hagström, Department of Medicine, Huddinge. Photo: Private

"In my research group, there are several ongoing projects, where we investigate better ways to identify which patients with fatty liver are at highest risk for developing serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, death, cirrhosis and cancer", says Hannes Hagström at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, one of the study's authors.

The research was mainly funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Stockholm Region, and the Cancer Foundation.


Risk of cardiovascular disease and loss in life expectancy in NAFLD
Ying Shang, Patrik Nasr, Linnea Widman, Hannes Hagström, Hepatology Online, 10 April 2022: