Liver Fibrosis Conventional and Molecular Imaging Diagnosis Update

J Liver. 2019;8(1):236. Epub 2019 Jan 22.


Liver fibrosis is a serious, life-threatening disease with high morbidity and mortality that result from diverse causes. Liver biopsy, considered the "gold standard" to diagnose, grade, and stage liver fibrosis, has limitations in terms of invasiveness, cost, sampling variability, inter-observer variability, and the dynamic process of fibrosis. Compelling evidence has demonstrated that all stages of fibrosis are reversible if the injury is removed. There is a clear need for safe, effective, and reliable non-invasive assessment modalities to determine liver fibrosis in order to manage it precisely in personalized medicine. However, conventional imaging methods used to assess morphological and structural changes related to liver fibrosis, including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are only useful in assessing advanced liver disease, including cirrhosis. Functional imaging techniques, including MR elastography (MRE), US elastography, and CT perfusion are useful for assessing moderate to advanced liver fibrosis. MRE is considered the most accurate noninvasive imaging technique, and US elastography is currently the most widely used noninvasive means. However, these modalities are less accurate in early-stage liver fibrosis and some factors affect the accuracy of these techniques. Molecular imaging is a target-specific imaging mechanism that has the potential to accurately diagnose early-stage liver fibrosis. We provide an overview of recent advances in molecular imaging for the diagnosis and staging of liver fibrosis which will enable clinicians to monitor the progression of disease and potentially reverse liver fibrosis. We compare the promising technologies with conventional and functional imaging and assess the utility of molecular imaging in precision and personalized clinical medicine in the early stages of liver fibrosis.

Keywords: Computed tomography; Liver fibrosis; Magnetic resonance imaging; Nuclear medicine; Ultrasound.