Background: Patients with Crohn's disease (CD) are predisposed to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). CD management often includes thiopurines which can promote hepatotoxicity. We aimed to identify the role of NAFLD on the risk of developing liver injury from thiopurines in CD. Methods: In this prospective cohort analysis, CD patients at a single center were recruited 6/2017-5/2018. Patients with alternative liver diseases were excluded. The primary outcome was time to elevation of liver enzymes. Patients underwent MRI with assessment of proton density fat fraction (PDFF) on enrollment, where NAFLD was defined as PDFF >5.5%. Statistical analysis was performed using a Cox-proportional hazards model. Results: Of the 311 CD patients studied, 116 (37%) were treated with thiopurines, 54 (47%) of which were found to have NAFLD. At follow-up, there were 44 total cases of elevated liver enzymes in those treated with thiopurines. Multivariable analysis demonstrated that NAFLD was a predictor of elevated liver enzymes in patients with CD treated with thiopurines (HR 3.0, 95% CI 1.2-7.3, P =. 018) independent of age, body mass index, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. Steatosis severity by PDFF positively correlated with peak alanine aminotransferase (ALT) at follow-up. Kaplan-Meier analysis demonstrated poorer complication-free survival (log-rank 13.1, P <. 001). Conclusions: NAFLD at baseline is a risk factor for thiopurine-induced hepatotoxicity in patients with CD. The degree of liver fat positively correlated with the degree of ALT elevation. These data suggest that evaluation for hepatic steatosis be considered in patients with liver enzyme elevations with thiopurine therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberotad005
JournalCrohn's and Colitis 360
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Crohn's disease
  • hepatotoxicity
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • proton density fat fraction
  • thiopurine


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