BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children with obesity should be screened for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Population epidemiology reveals that NAFLD is common in children; however, little is known about rates of clinical diagnosis. In this study, we aim to determine screening practices, annual incidence, and clinical characteristics of NAFLD in children within an integrated community health system.
METHODS: Using electronic health records, we identified patients newly diagnosed (aged 5–18) with NAFLD on the basis of diagnostic codes from the 9th and 10th revisions of the International Classification of Diseases. We calculated screening rates and annual incidence rates of NAFLD from January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2018.
RESULTS: In this study, we evaluated 7 884 844 patient-years. Screening was performed in 54.0% of children with obesity and 24.0% of children with overweight. The results revealed 36 658 children aged 9 to 18 with overweight or obesity and alanine aminotransferase >30 U/L. Of these children, 12.3% received further workup for NAFLD. The incidence of an NAFLD diagnosis significantly increased over time, with 36.0 per 100 000 in 2009 and 58.2 per 100 000 in 2018 (P < .0001).
CONCLUSIONS: Our study of a large integrated health care system in southern California revealed that the incidence of NAFLD in children is increasing, although many children may remain undiagnosed.