Noninvasive evaluation of hepatic fibrosis using acoustic radiation force-based shear stiffness in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

J Hepatol. 2011 Sep;55(3):666-672. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.12.019. Epub 2011 Jan 21.


Background & aims: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most common form of chronic liver disease in developed countries, may progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in a minority of people. Those with NASH are at increased risk for cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The potential risk and economic burden of utilizing liver biopsy to stage NAFLD in an overwhelmingly large at-risk population are enormous; thus, the discovery of sensitive, inexpensive, and reliable noninvasive diagnostic modalities is essential for population-based screening.

Methods: Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse (ARFI) shear wave imaging, a noninvasive method of assessing tissue stiffness, was used to evaluate liver fibrosis in 172 patients diagnosed with NAFLD. Liver shear stiffness measures in three different imaging locations were reconstructed and compared to the histologic features of NAFLD and AST-to-platelet ratio indices (APRI).

Results: Reconstructed shear stiffnesses were not associated with ballooned hepatocytes (p=0.11), inflammation (p=0.69), nor imaging location (p=0.11). Using a predictive shear stiffness threshold of 4.24kPa, shear stiffness distinguished low (fibrosis stage 0-2) from high (fibrosis stage 3-4) fibrosis stages with a sensitivity of 90% and a specificity of 90% (AUC of 0.90). Shear stiffness had a mild correlation with APRI (R(2)=0.22). BMI>40kg/m(2) was not a limiting factor for ARFI imaging, and no correlation was noted between BMI and shear stiffness (R(2)=0.05).

Conclusions: ARFI imaging is a promising imaging modality for assessing the presence or absence of advanced fibrosis in patients with obesity-related liver disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques*
  • Fatty Liver / blood
  • Fatty Liver / complications
  • Fatty Liver / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Platelet Count
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Aspartate Aminotransferases