Fibrosis assessment in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection

Ann Transl Med. 2017 Feb;5(3):40. doi: 10.21037/atm.2017.01.28.


Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major cause of liver morbidity and mortality worldwide. While a proportion of the 250 million individuals chronically infected with HBV will not come to significant harm or require therapy, many others risk developing complications of the end-stage liver disease such as decompensated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), without intervention. Due to the complex natural history of HBV infection, patients require an expert assessment to interpret biochemistry, viral serology and appropriately stage the disease, and to initiate monitoring and/or therapy where indicated. The detection and quantification of liver fibrosis is a key factor for disease management and prognostication for an individual with HBV. The reliance on invasive liver biopsy to stage disease is diminishing with the advent of robust non-invasive blood- and imaging-based algorithms which can reliably stage disease in many cases. These tests are now incorporated into International guidelines for HBV management and relied upon daily to inform clinical judgement. Both blood- and imaging-based approaches have advantages over liver biopsy, including minimal risks, lower cost, better patient acceptance and speed of results, while disadvantages include lower diagnostic accuracy in intermediate disease stages and variability with co-existing hepatic inflammation or steatosis. This review outlines the methods of fibrosis assessment in chronic HBV infection and focuses on the most commonly used blood- and imaging-based non-invasive tests, reviewing their diagnostic performance and applicability to patient care.

Keywords: FIB-4; Fibroscan; cirrhosis; enhanced liver fibrosis (ELF); fibrotest.

Publication types

  • Review