Relative performances of FibroTest, Fibroscan, and biopsy for the assessment of the stage of liver fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C: a step toward the truth in the absence of a gold standard

J Hepatol. 2012 Mar;56(3):541-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.08.007. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Background & aims: Liver fibrosis stage is traditionally assessed with biopsy, an imperfect gold standard. Two widely used techniques, FibroTest®, and liver stiffness measurement (LSM) using Fibroscan® have been validated using biopsy, and therefore the true performances of these estimates are still unknown in the absence of a perfect reference. The aim was to assess the relative accuracy of FibroTest, LSM, and biopsy using methods without gold standard in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) and controls.

Methods: A total of 1289 patients with CHC and 604 healthy volunteers, with assessment of fibrosis stage by the three techniques, and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) taken as a control test, were analyzed by latent class method with random effects. In the volunteers, the false positive risk of biopsy was obtained from a large surgical sample of four normal livers.

Results: The latent class model with random effects permitted to conciliate the observed data and estimates of test performances. For advanced fibrosis, the specificity/sensitivity was for FibroTest 0.93/0.70, LSM 0.96/0.45, ALT 0.79/0.78 and biopsy 0.67/0.63, and for cirrhosis FibroTest 0.87/0.41, LSM 0.93/0.39, ALT 0.78/0.08 and biopsy 0.95/0.51. The analysis of the discordances between pairs suggested that the variability of the model was mainly related to the discordances between biopsy and LSM (residuals>10; p<0.0001).

Conclusions: A method without the use of a gold standard confirmed the accuracy of FibroTest and Fibroscan for the diagnosis of advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C. The variability of the model was mostly due to the discordances between Fibroscan and biopsy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Biopsy / standards*
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / instrumentation
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / standards*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Alanine Transaminase