Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver in people who drink little or no alcohol – is the most common type of chronic liver disease in Australia. NAFLD is associated with a reduction in health-related quality of life, and as the number of NAFLD cases increase, the health system will incur increased costs associated with its diagnosis, management and disease progression. Currently, many patients who present to primary care with abnormal liver function tests or steatosis on liver ultrasound are referred for assessment in secondary care. Due to the large number of patients with NAFLD, this results in long waits for clinical and fibrosis assessment, placing unnecessary burden on the public hospital system.

The LOCATE-NAFLD study (LOCal Assessment and Triage Evaluation of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund Keeping Australians Out of Hospital initiative (GNT1175567), and aims to assess an alternative to this current model of care. It builds on previous work by investigator Professor James O’Beirne, and is running from 2019-2022.

LOCATE-NAFLD is a randomised trial, comparing two alternative models of care for NAFLD (usual care versus LOCATE-NAFLD care). Participants randomised to the intervention will be screened in the community with a non-invasive device called a Fibroscan, a scan they may otherwise have waited months to receive. The scan results can then determine if their disease, with high risk patients sent to a specialist, and low-risk patients returned to the care of their GP, reducing unnecessary hospital appointments.

Through this faster assessment and stratification of patients in the community, the study aims to greatly reduce referrals for hospital-based appointments, and improve surveillance of high-risk disease, resulting in enhanced management of complications that result in avoidable, high cost hospital admissions.

Read our protocol publication here.

Study investigators:

Professor Adrian Barnett, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Professor James O’Beirne, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service
Dr Ingrid Hickman, Metro South Hospital and Health Service
Professor Elizabeth Powell, University of Queensland
Assoc/Professor Patricia Valery, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Dr Sanjeewa Kularatna, QUT
Dr David Brain, QUT

L to R: Dr David Brain; A/Prof Patricia Valery; Prof Adrian Barnett; Dr Sanjeewa Kularatna; Prof James O’Beirne; Dr Ingrid Hickman; Prof Elizabeth Powell