Non-invasive assessment of liver fibrosis in patients with HBV-related chronic liver disease undergoing antiviral treatment: A preliminary study

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In chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients, fibrosis assessment during antiviral treatment is a key step in the clinical management. Aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of elastography in assessing fibrosis stage in CHB before and after two years of nucleoside/nucleotide analogues (NUC) treatment in comparison with indirect serum markers. CHB diagnosis was made according to standard criteria. A clinical and virological evaluation was performed at baseline and again at 3, 6, 9, 12 18, and 24 months during treatment. Fibrosis was evaluated by liver biopsy, elastography and indirect serum markers. Of 75 patients, 50 had CHB, HBeAg negative and were deemed eligible for this study. Of these, 22 underwent liver biopsy. Mean histo-morphometric values of fibrotic tissue differed significantly in the stage < S3 vs. stage ≥S3: 2.01±2.62% vs. 12.85±7.31% (p=0.03), respectively. At 18 and 24 months, stiffness values were statistically reduced from those previously observed (P=0.03 and P<0.001). At 24 months the values of APRI, FIB-4 and LOK were not different from baseline values, while the value of FORNS score at 24 months was the only one statistically reduced. In two patients with fibrosis stage S3 and S6, respectively, fibrosis regressed to stage S2 and S5. In conclusion, the results of the present study show that liver histology, stiffness and FORNS score improve significantly during a long-term follow-up of HBV patients successfully treated with NUC. These results strongly suggest that the non-invasive evaluation of liver fibrosis represents a key step in the management and treatment of chronic HBV hepatitis.

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