AIM: To investigate the prevalence of fatty liver discovered upon physical examination of Chinese patients and determine the associated clinical characteristics.
METHODS: A total of 3433 consecutive patients who received physical examinations at the Huangpu Division of the First Affiliated Hospital at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China from June 2010 to December 2010 were retrospectively enrolled in the study. Results of biochemical tests, abdominal ultrasound, electrocardiography, and chest X-ray were collected. The diagnosis of fatty liver was made if a patient met any two of the three following ultrasonic criteria: (1) liver and kidney echo discrepancy and presence of an increased liver echogenicity (bright); (2) unclear intrahepatic duct structure; and (3) liver far field echo decay.
RESULTS: The study population consisted of 2201 males and 1232 females, with a mean age of 37.4 ± 12.8 years. When all 3433 patients were considered, the overall prevalence of hyperlipidemia was 38.1%, of fatty liver was 26.0%, of increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and/or aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels was 11.9%, of gallstone was 11.4%, of hyperglycemia was 7.3%, of hypertension was 7.1%, and of hyperuricemia was 6.2%. Of the 2605 patients who completed the abdominal ultrasonography exam, 677 (26.0%) were diagnosed with fatty liver and the prevalence was higher in males (32.5% vs females: 15.3%, P < 0.001). The overall prevalence of fatty liver increased with age, with the peak prevalence (39.5%) found in the 60 to 70-year-old age group. Among patients between the ages of 18 to 50-year-old, the prevalence of fatty liver was significantly higher in males (20.2% vs females: 8.7%, P < 0.001); the difference in prevalence between the two sexes in patients > 50-year-old did not reach statistical significance. Only 430 of the patients diagnosed with fatty liver had complete information; among those, increased ALT and/or AST levels were detected in only 30%, with all disturbances being mild or moderate. In these 430 patients, the overall prevalence of hypertriglyceridemia was 31.4%, of mixed type hyperlipidemia was 20.9%, of hypercholesterolemia was 12.3%, of hyperglycemia was 17.6%, of hypertension was 16.0%, of hyperuricemia was 15.3%, and of gallstone was 14.4%. Again, the prevalences of hypertriglyceridemia and hyperuricemia were higher in males (hypertriglyceridemia, 36.0% vs females: 12.0%, P < 0.05; hyperuricemia, 17.3% vs females: 7.2%, P < 0.05); in contrast, however, the prevalences of mixed type hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia was higher in females (mixed type hyperlipidemia, 18.7% vs females: 30.1%, P < 0.05, hypercholesterolemia, 9.5% vs females: 24.1%, P < 0.05). Finally, comparison of the fatty liver group to the non-fatty liver group showed that prevalences of hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and hyperuricemia were higher in the former (all P < 0.01).
CONCLUSION: A high prevalence of fatty liver is detected upon physical examination in Guangzhou, and the primary associated clinical findings are hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and hyperuricemia.