Objective: Liver biopsy is an invasive procedure and new surrogate markers to assess fibrosis are needed. We performed a comparative external evaluation of nine non-invasive scores of liver fibrosis and tried to identify other potential biochemical markers of low-stage liver fibrosis in chronic hepatitis C (CHC).
Material and methods: We included 429 previously untreated consecutive patients from a single centre who underwent a liver biopsy between January 1999 and April 2009. Biopsies were evaluated for the stage of fibrosis according to the METAVIR scoring method.
Results: None of the evaluated scores were adequate to disclose null-low fibrosis due to a lack of specificity at the proposed cut-offs and the poor sensitivity of lower cut-offs. Serum ferritin and cholesterol values were found to be independently related to the fibrosis stage and their inclusion in the best performing scores at lower cut-off values (the APRI and King's scores) improved the sensitivity for null-low fibrosis by 8% with a specificity >or= 93%.
Conclusions: Approximately 30% of patients with null-low fibrosis may be accurately identified by supplementing current scores with new independent variables (serum ferritin and cholesterol), thus obviating the need for a liver biopsy.