Abstract

Objective: Liver biopsy is still needed for fibrosis staging in many patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The aims of this study were to evaluate the individual diagnostic performance of liver stiffness measurement by vibration controlled transient elastography (LSM-VCTE), Fibrosis-4 Index (FIB-4) and NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) Fibrosis Score (NFS) and to derive diagnostic strategies that could reduce the need for liver biopsies.

Design: Individual patient data meta-analysis of studies evaluating LSM-VCTE against liver histology was conducted. FIB-4 and NFS were computed where possible. Sensitivity, specificity and area under the receiver operating curve (AUROC) were calculated. Biomarkers were assessed individually and in sequential combinations.

Results: Data were included from 37 primary studies (n=5735; 45% women; median age: 54 years; median body mass index: 30 kg/m2; 33% had type 2 diabetes; 30% had advanced fibrosis). AUROCs of individual LSM-VCTE, FIB-4 and NFS for advanced fibrosis were 0.85, 0.76 and 0.73. Sequential combination of FIB-4 cut-offs (<1.3; ≥2.67) followed by LSM-VCTE cut-offs (<8.0; ≥10.0 kPa) to rule-in or rule-out advanced fibrosis had sensitivity and specificity (95% CI) of 66% (63-68) and 86% (84-87) with 33% needing a biopsy to establish a final diagnosis. FIB-4 cut-offs (<1.3; ≥3.48) followed by LSM cut-offs (<8.0; ≥20.0 kPa) to rule out advanced fibrosis or rule in cirrhosis had a sensitivity of 38% (37-39) and specificity of 90% (89-91) with 19% needing biopsy.

Conclusion: Sequential combinations of markers with a lower cut-off to rule-out advanced fibrosis and a higher cut-off to rule-in cirrhosis can reduce the need for liver biopsies.

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