Objective: The potential diagnostic value of performing Doppler measurements of liver vasculature to assess early stages of liver fibrosis has not been established. Due to the potential clinical impact, this study focused on the correlation between Doppler measurements and histologically proven liver fibrosis.
Methods: Forty-three consecutive patients with chronic viral hepatitis (79% hepatitis C) were enrolled. At the time of liver biopsy, two independent investigators measured maximum and mean blood flow velocity, resistance indices, vessel diameter and blood flow volume in the portal vein, hepatic artery and hepatic veins. All measurements were taken in triplicate. The mean values were correlated to the degree of liver fibrosis using the Ludwig score.
Results: Sixty-seven per cent of the patients in our study group had no or only mild fibrosis (Ludwig score stage I or II). Thirty-three per cent showed progressive fibrosis or cirrhosis (Ludwig score stage III or IV). There was a large overlap in the Doppler measurements and findings between the various disease stages. No significant changes of Doppler parameters were detected, even between patients with no or mild fibrosis and patients with severe fibrosis (Ludwig score stage III or IV).
Conclusions: Doppler measurements of the portal vein, hepatic artery and hepatic vein(s) are not a valid surrogate marker of liver fibrosis. Nor are Doppler measurements a useful method to estimate the degree of liver fibrosis.