Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the major causes of chronic liver disease. The primary treatment of NAFLD by statins has not been clearly elucidated.
To evaluate the effectiveness of statin use in patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis on the change in liver histology.
We searched MEDLINE, Scopus, Google Scholar, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for clinical trials and observational studies investigating the effects of statins on histological change regardless of type or dosage from inception to December 2015. Random-effect model meta-analyses were used to compute changes in outcomes of interest. The study protocol was registered in advance with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO 2016 CRD42016033132).
We identified 6 studies (111 patients), representing 5 cohort studies and 1 randomized controlled clinical trial. There was significant decrease in steatosis grading with a standardized mean difference of –2.580 (95% confidence interval [CI] –4.623 to –0.536; P = 0.013) and NAFLD activity score standardized mean difference of –1.488 (95% CI –2.506 to –0.471; P = 0.004). However, there was no significant change in fibrosis stage (0.156; 95% CI –0.553 to 0.865; P = 0.667).
Statin use can possibly reduce the extent of steatohepatitis but not the stage of fibrosis. Further randomized controlled studies to assess histological evidence with adequate sample size and duration are required in order to establish the role of statin as a primary treatment of NAFLD.