Awareness, management, and practice patterns of pediatric NAFLD by primary care physicians



Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in children. Primary-care physicians (PCPs) play a key role in identifying patients requiring specialist referral. In this study, we aim to determine PCPs’ practice patterns for paediatric NAFLD, as knowledge gaps have been reported for adult NAFLD.


A survey was sent to 60 PCPs in the Eastern Ontario Network from July 2019 to January 2020.


Thirty-seven (62%) PCPs responded to the survey. Twenty-one incorrectly considered the prevalence of paediatric NAFLD to be ≤10%. The majority (35/36) cared for less than five paediatric NAFLD patients. Thirty-four (92%) were only ‘slightly familiar’ or ‘not familiar at all’ with paediatric NAFLD. Only one PCP routinely screens for NAFLD. Only one PCP was aware of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (NASPGHAN) clinical guidelines for paediatric NAFLD. Twenty-five (68%) correctly selected lifestyle modifications as a treatment option. Lack of confidence in the knowledge of NAFLD was the most common barrier for managing paediatric cases.


The majority of PCPs are not screening for paediatric NAFLD and are not familiar with its clinical spectrum, citing a lack of knowledge regarding NAFLD as the greatest barrier. This may cause delays in diagnosis and a presentation with advanced fibrosis at the time of specialist referral. Dissemination and implementation of clinical guidelines have the potential to improve knowledge and screening rates for NAFLD in children at the primary-care level.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Mohit Kehar

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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