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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 27, Issue 3, Pages 149-158

A Health Technology Assessment of Transient Elastography in Adult Liver Disease

Rodney Steadman,1 Robert P Myers,2 Laura Leggett,1 Diane Lorenzetti,1 Tom Noseworthy,1 Sarah Rose,1 Lloyd Sutherland,1 and Fiona Clement1

1Institute for Public Health, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
2Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Received 27 July 2012; Accepted 12 August 2012

Copyright © 2013 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: An estimated one in 10 Canadians have some form of liver disease. The reference standard for staging and monitoring liver fibrosis is percutaneous liver biopsy – an invasive procedure associated with risks and complications. Transient elastography (TE) represents a noninvasive, ultrasound-based alternative.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of TE compared with liver biopsy for fibrosis staging in adults with five common types of liver disease: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cholestatic liver disease and complications post-liver transplantation.

METHODS: A systematic review of published and grey literature from 2001 to June 2011 was conducted. Included were observational studies evaluating the accuracy of TE using liver biopsy as the comparator. An economic model was developed to estimate the cost per correct diagnosis gained with liver biopsy compared with TE. Identification of moderate fibrosis (stages 2 to 4) and cirrhosis (stage 4) were considered.

RESULTS: Fifty-seven studies were included in the review. The diagnostic accuracy of TE for the five clinical subgroups had sensitivities ranging from 0.67 to 0.92 and specificities ranging from 0.72 to 0.95. Liver biopsy was associated with an additional $1,427 to $7,030 per correct diagnosis gained compared with TE. The model was sensitive to the sensitivity and specificity of TE and the prevalence of fibrosis.

CONCLUSIONS: TE is an accurate diagnostic method in patients with moderate fibrosis or cirrhosis. TE is less effective but less expensive than liver biopsy. Systemic implementation of TE should be considered for the noninvasive assessment of liver fibrosis.