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MAFLD: A better name and definition for fatty liver disease to improve patient care

Fatty liver disease recently underwent a change in nomenclature, from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to the current metabolic (dysfunction) associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). This change was also accompanied with update in the diagnostic criteria for the disease. “This is really an internationally patient- enthusiastically supported change,” Professor Gamal Shiha, CEO and director of the Egyptian liver hospital and member of the executive board of multiple patient associations and one of the leading proponents of changing the name.

Image credit: myupchar.com via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

“This name has the advantage of describing the nature of the disease more accurately, make it easy to be explained to patients as well as governments and policy makers and get it closer to other related metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes”. “Most patients do not perceive their fatty liver disease seriously because of the term “non” in the old name and the misinterpretation of the name”. In addition to avoiding confusion among patients and providers, the name change removes “any stigma or anxiety for patients in having the word alcoholic incorrectly associated with the name and diagnosis,” Shiha said.
“One of the other impressive things the shift from NAFLD to MAFLD has done is really simplify the diagnosis. It has moved away from requiring an exhaustive list of blood tests to exclude all other liver diseases to being a diagnosis that can be made fairly straight forward with simple blood tests.” “Multiple recent studies have showed that MAFLD is superior to NAFLD in identifying patients at high risk of liver scarring. Suggesting that diagnostic criteria of MAFLD are not simple but even more accurate than the old one”. Shiha added.

“The name change will hopefully increase awareness of the fact that MAFLD is a systemic condition and help physicians to better understand the varied risk of patients and make the correct classification of them”. For patients, the name change will expectantly “increase hope and optimism,” he said.

Gamal Shiha, in conjunction with patient advocacy, hope to bring increased awareness of the MAFLD discussion to the public and medical community. Early detection of MAFLD is paramount, “before progression to cirrhosis and further complications”.

The paper was authored by an international consensus panel and published in lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langas/article/PIIS2468-1253(20)30294-6/fulltext

Professor Gamal Shiha is affiliated with the Egyptian liver hospital.

Source: The Egyptian liver hospital


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