Variation in Alanine Aminotransferase in Children with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

TARGET-NASH Investigators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Pediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major public health concern. Aminotransferase (ALT) is frequently used for screening and monitoring, but few studies have reported typical patterns of ALT elevation in children. Methods: TARGET-NASH is a real-world longitudinal observational cohort of patients with NAFLD receiving care across the United States. Analyses included children enrolled between 1 August 2016, and 12 October 2020, with at least one ALT measurement after enrollment. Peak ALT was based on the first and last available record and categorized into clinical cut points: <70 IU/L, >70–<250 IU/L, and >250 IU/L. A chi-squared test was used to compare differences in proportions, and a Kruskal–Wallis test was used to compare the medians and distributions of continuous responses. Results: Analyses included 660 children with a median age of 13 years. Of the 660, a total of 187 had undergone a biopsy and were more likely to be Hispanic or Latino (67% vs. 57%, p = 0.02) and to have cirrhosis (10% vs. 1%, p < 0.001). The highest ALT scores ranged from 28 U/L to 929 U/L; however, these scores varied across time. The prevalence of cirrhosis or any liver fibrosis stage was most common among children with a peak ALT > 70 U/L. Conclusions: Large variability was seen in ALT among children, including many values > 250 U/L. Higher levels of ALT were associated with increased prevalence of comorbidities and more advanced stages of NAFLD. These findings support an increased need for therapeutics and disease severity assessment in children with peak ALT > 70 U/L.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number374
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • ALT
  • Cirrhosis
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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