In early hepatic fibrosis, increased amounts of type III collagen are deposited. Persistently high serum concentrations of aminoterminal type III procollagen propeptide (PIIIP) correlate with the activity of the fibrogenic process. Another index for the detection of fibrosis, the PGA index, combines the prothrombin time, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase activity, and serum apolipoprotein A1 concentration (the latter falls with progressive fibrosis). We compared PIIIP measurements and PGA index in patients with various histological forms of alcoholic liver disease (104), primary biliary cirrhosis (38), and chronic B virus hepatitis (27), and in healthy age-matched controls (30). The ability of each test to identify correctly patients with fibrosis or cirrhosis was assessed with receiver operating curves. The PGA index was much higher in all groups of patients with alcoholic liver disease than in controls (p < 0.0001). PIIIP concentrations were also substantially higher than in controls (p < 0.05 for fatty liver, p < 0.0001 for all other groups), especially in the group with alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. For the detection of cirrhosis the PGA was 91% sensitive and 81% specific and the PIIIP concentration was 94% sensitive and 81% specific. The two tests combined had 85% sensitivity, but 93% specificity. Among patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, both PGA index and PIIIP concentration correlated well with the severity of the disease, determined by the Mayo score (r = 0.72 and 0.66 respectively). The combined tests were 96% sensitive for the detection of fibrosis. All patients with chronic B virus hepatitis had raised PGA and PIIIP values in comparison with controls (p < 0.0001) but there were no differences between subgroups. Substantially raised PIIIP concentrations thus identify the subgroup of alcoholic patients with both hepatitis and cirrhosis. The combination of PGA index and PIIIP concentration may be useful for targeting treatment with antifibrotic drugs and to reduce the need for liver biopsy.