The noninvasive quantitation of liver stiffness (LS) by ultrasound based transient elastography using FibroScan® has revolutionized the diagnosis of liver diseases, namely liver cirrhosis. Alternative techniques such as acoustic radiation impulse frequency imaging or magnetic resonance elastography are currently under investigation. LS is an excellent surrogate marker of advanced fibrosis (F3) and cirrhosis (F4) outscoring all previous noninvasive approaches to detect cirrhosis. LS values below 6 kPa are considered as normal and exclude ongoing liver disease. LS of 8 and 12.5 kPa represent generally accepted cut-off values for F3 and F4 fibrosis. LS highly correlates with portal pressure, and esophageal varices are likely at values >20 kPa. Many other factors may also increase LS such as hepatic infiltration with tumor cells, mast cells (mastocytosis), inflammatory cells (all forms of hepatitis) or amyloidosis. In addition, LS is directly correlated with the venous pressure (eg, during liver congestion) and is increased during mechanic cholestasis. Thus, LS should always be interpreted in the context of clinical, imaging and laboratory findings. Finally, LS has helped to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying liver fibrosis. The novel pressure-stiffness-fibrosis sequence hypothesis is introduced.
Keywords: fibrosis; liver disease; liver stiffness; transient elastography.