American Gastroenterological Association Institute Technical Review on the Role of Elastography in Chronic Liver Diseases

Gastroenterology. 2017 May;152(6):1544-1577. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.03.016.


Chronic liver diseases (CLDs), due to chronic hepatitis C; hepatitis B; nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD); and alcoholic liver disease, are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. Early identification of patients with cirrhosis at high risk of progression to liver-related complications may facilitate timely care and improve outcomes. With risks and misclassification associated with invasive tests, such as liver biopsy, noninvasive imaging modalities for liver fibrosis assessment have gained popularity. Therefore, the American Gastroenterological Association prioritized clinical guidelines on the role of elastography in CLDs, focusing on vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE) and magnetic resonance elastography (MRE). To inform these clinical guidelines, the current technical review was developed in accordance with the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) framework for diagnostic accuracy studies. This technical review addresses focused questions related to: (1) comparative diagnostic performance of VCTE and MRE relative to nonproprietary, serum-based fibrosis markers for detection of cirrhosis in patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), NAFLD, and alcoholic liver diseases; (2) performance of specific VCTE-defined liver stiffness cutoffs as a test replacement strategy (to replace liver biopsy) in making key decisions in the management of patients with CLDs; and (3) performance of specific VCTE-defined liver stiffness cutoffs as a triage test to identify patients with low likelihood of harboring high-risk esophageal varices (EVs) or having clinically significant portal hypertension (for presurgical risk stratification). This technical review does not address performance of other noninvasive modalities for assessing fibrosis (eg, acoustic radiation force pulse imaging or shear wave elastography) or steatosis (controlled attenuation parameter or magnetic resonance imaging-estimated proton density fat fraction).

Keywords: Chronic Liver Diseases; Fibrosis; Guidelines; Noninvasive Imaging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Elasticity*
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / etiology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / complications
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / complications
  • Risk Assessment