Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Tests and Diagnosis

What tests are used to diagnose non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

The diagnosis of NAFLD is made through a combination of a physical exam with a doctor, blood test results, special x-rays of a child’s abdomen and, often, a liver biopsy done by a doctor when a child is under anesthesia. During this procedure a small amount of tissue is taken from the liver so it can be examined under a microscope to look for fatty deposits and scarring.

How do doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?

In order to diagnose NAFLD, your doctor will start with blood tests to look for abnormally high levels of liver enzymes. They may also run blood tests for pre-diabetes and high blood lipids and try to exclude other causes of liver disease, such as viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis and Wilson’s disease. They may check an abdominal ultrasound to look for fat deposits in the liver. The only way to be certain that your child has NAFLD, however, is a liver biopsy. This test allows your child’s doctor to determine if your child has NAFLD and the severity of the disease.