Background Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most prevalent cause of liver disease in Western countries. The development of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis identifies an at-risk group with increased risk of cardiovascular and liver-related deaths. The identification and management of this at-risk group remains a clinical challenge. Aim To perform a systematic review of the established and emerging strategies for the diagnosis and staging of NAFLD. Methods Relevant research and review articles were identified by searching PubMed, MEDLINE and EMBASE. Results There has been a substantial development of non-invasive risk scores, biomarker panels and radiological modalities to identify at-risk patients with NAFLD without recourse to liver biopsy on a routine basis. These modalities and algorithms have improved significantly in their diagnosis and staging of fibrosis and NASH in patients with NAFLD, and will likely impact on the number of patients undergoing liver biopsy. Conclusions Staging for NAFLD can now be performed by a combination of radiological and laboratory techniques, greatly reducing the requirement for invasive liver biopsy. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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