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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 23 (2009), Issue 6, Pages 425-430
Original Article

Liver Biopsies for Chronic Hepatitis C: Should Nonultrasound-Guided Biopsies Be Abandoned?

Jennifer A Flemming,1 David J Hurlbut,2 Ben Mussari,3 and Lawrence C Hookey1,4

1Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
2Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
3Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
4Gastroenterology Division, Hotel Dieu Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Received 25 January 2009; Accepted 29 March 2009

Copyright © 2009 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: Liver biopsy has been the gold standard for grading and staging chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV)-mediated liver injury. Traditionally, this has been performed by trained practitioners using a nonimage-guided percutaneous technique at the bedside. Recent literature suggests an expanding role for radiologists in obtaining biopsies using an ultrasound (US)-guided technique. The present study was undertaken study to determine if the two techniques produced liver biopsy specimens of similar quality and hypothesized that at our institution, non-US-guided percutaneous liver biopsies for HCV would be of higher quality than US-guided specimens.

METHODS: Liver biopsies from 100 patients with chronic HCV infection (50 consecutive US-guided and 50 consecutive non-US-guided), were retrospectively identified using a hospital histopathology database. All original biopsy slides were coded and prospectively reanalyzed by a single hepatopathologist who was blinded to the technique used in obtaining the biopsy. Additionally, all liver biopsies for chronic HCV infection completed at the centre from 1998 to 2007 were identified and the technique used was recorded. Biopsy quality was determined primarily by the number of complete portal tracts (CPTs) identifiable in the slides. The total length of specimen and the degree of fragmentation were secondary outcome measures.

RESULTS: There was a slight difference observed between the US-guided and non-US-guided groups in mean age (46.3 years versus 42.5 years, repectively; P=0.018) but no differences in sex, presence of cirrhosis, bilirubin, creatinine, international normalized ratio, and grade or stage of disease. Biopsies obtained using the US-guided technique produced higher quality specimens than the non-US-guided technique based on our primary outcome of number of CPTs in the biopsy (11.8 versus 7.4; P<0.001). US-guided specimens also were longer (24.4 mm versus 19.7 mm; P=0.001), had less fragmentation (P=0.016), and a higher overall histopathological quality assessment (P=0.026) than the non-US-guided biopsies. However, there was no significant difference between the two groups in the ability to grade and stage the disease (96% US-guided versus 90% in non-US-guided (P=0.20). Over a 10-year period, 763 biopsies for chronic HCV infection were identified with an obvious trend toward the increased use of US-guided technique observed at 2% in 1998 to 85% in 2007.

CONCLUSIONS: US-guided liver biopsies for chronic HCV are the most common method of obtaining specimens at the Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, and are of higher quality than non-US-guided specimens. However, there is no significant difference in the two techniques in the ability to grade and stage chronic HCV.