Usefulness of liver biopsy in chronic hepatitis C

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Major requirements for performance of liver biopsy (LB) are the benefits for the patient and the impossibility of having the same information by less invasive procedures. In the last two decades physicians have faced the difficult task of convincing a patient positive for hepatitis C, with minimal clinical or laboratory alterations to be submitted to LB in order to evaluate the status of the disease for therapeutic management. The characteristics of the needle used for percutaneous LB interferes with the accuracy of diagnosis. In chronic hepatitis C (CHC), validity is achieved with liver fragments about 25mm in length containing more than 10 portal tracts. Morbidity due to LB is mainly related to bleeding but death is very rare. Severe complications are also uncommon, increasing with number of passes and decreasing with experience of operator and ultrasound guidance. Although CHC is a diffuse disease, the various areas of the liver may not be equally affected and sampling errors are possible. Another potential limitation of LB is the discordance between pathologists in its interpretation. To replace LB, many panels of surrogate markers have been described, aiming to identify extent of fibrosis and inflammation. All of them have used LB as their "gold standard". Liver biopsy continues to be the most reliable method to evaluate the possibility of therapy for CHC. Universal treatment of all patients with diagnosis of CHC would be ideal. But, there are mainly three drawbacks. Overall efficacy is as low as 50%, side effects are common and may be severe and treatment is prolonged and expensive. The acceptability of the biopsy by the patient is highly dependent on the physician's conviction of its usefulness.




Strauss, E. (2010). Usefulness of liver biopsy in chronic hepatitis C. Annals of Hepatology, 9(SUPPL. 1), 39–42.

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