Diagnosis & Treatment

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

How is NAFLD Diagnosed?

How is NAFLD Diagnosed?

NAFLD may be identified from a routine medical test or evaluation for other conditions. The first signs may be elevated liver enzymes or fat in the liver seen on an ultrasound. Your doctor can order blood tests to look for other causes of liver disease. In addition, your doctor will assess your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and order tests.

Physical exam

  • A doctor may press on your abdomen to determine whether or not your liver is enlarged.
  • Unfortunately, a doctor can’t determine inflammation by doing a physical exam.

Blood tests

Blood tests may indicate that there is fat +/- inflammation in the liver. Many patients with NAFLD may have mild to moderate elevations in liver enzymes (alanine aminotransferase test—ALT and aspartate aminotransferase test—AST).

If liver enzymes are elevated, your doctor may order additional tests to find the cause of the inflammation and diagnose non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Imaging studies

Your doctor may order one or more imaging tests to check for fat, liver fibrosis, or other abnormalities in the liver:

  • MRI
  • Ultrasound exam
  • CT scan
  • FibroScan

Liver biopsy

Your doctor may perform a liver biopsy to determine the severity of fatty liver disease.

A piece of liver tissue is removed for examination during a liver biopsy. This is usually an outpatient procedure using a local anesthetic to lessen pain.

How is NAFLD Treated?


Lifestyle changes

Improving liver health is the first approach to reversing NAFLD. Lifestyle changes, including regular physical activity, dietary changes, and maintaining a healthy body weight, are vital in supporting a healthy liver. Weight loss of 7% can improve liver fat and inflammation, and 10% weight loss can reverse liver fibrosis.

Losing weight can be challenging. Our registered dietitians and other members of your care team can help you learn how to implement these changes. Surgical and endoscopic procedures can be used to help with weight loss, and this may also improve NAFLD.


There are no FDA-approved medications to treat fatty liver disease. Your doctor may advise you to take vitamin E or pioglitazone (a diabetes medication) to try to reduce the fat and inflammation in the liver. Many medications are currently being studied in clinical trials to determine if they effectively reduce fat, inflammation, and fibrosis in the liver.

Liver Transplantation

Severe liver cirrhosis can be life-threatening, which may increase the need for a liver transplant. At NewYork-Presbyterian, you are ten times more likely to receive a liver transplant than at other regional hospitals. You’ll be in good hands with an average wait time of just nine months and an impressive 2,000 liver transplants, with outcomes that meet or surpass national averages.

Our surgical team uses a variety of liver transplant approaches, including living donor liver transplantation, to extend the limits of organ transplantation and provide the most significant number of transplants possible.

Clinical Trials

While no medication is specifically used to treat NAFLD, promising drugs are under study in clinical trials. If interested, you can participate in one of these trials, supervised by your doctor.



Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be affected by genes and run in families. Unfortunately, the condition often goes undetected for a long time since symptoms are not noticeable.

Fatty liver can be reversed if action is taken during the early stages. Following a healthy lifestyle that involves eating a healthy diet and being physically active helps. Weight loss through these changes, use of weight loss medications, and/or bariatric procedures may all lead to improvement in NAFLD.

Fatty liver can be dangerous if the condition goes untreated, as it can progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Many patients with NAFLD can live long lives. The severity of the liver disease (fibrosis stage) provides the most useful information about the impact liver disease will have on your longevity.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Treatment

Most individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver diease experience significant symptoms such as leg swelling, nausea, and abdominal pain once the NAFLD reaches advanced stages. Recognizing signs and symptoms and getting checkups to test your liver’s condition are essential to liver health.

Our hepatologists (liver specialists), surgeons, and nurses have extensive experience caring for people with fatty liver and other liver diseases. At NewYork-Presbyterian, you can receive all the care you need. Call to schedule an appointment today for fatty liver disease treatment.