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Histologic scoring systems for chronic liver disease

Maria Isabel Fiel, MD, FAASLD
Section Editor
Sanjiv Chopra, MD, MACP
Deputy Editor
Anne C Travis, MD, MSc, FACG, AGAF


Histologic scoring systems for chronic liver disease are used to characterize and predict disease progression, to determine prognosis, to guide treatment strategies, and to provide standards in clinical trials.

This topic will review the major histologic scoring systems for chronic liver disease. The interpretation of liver biopsy specimens in general and methods to obtain liver biopsy specimens are discussed elsewhere. (See "Interpretation of liver biopsy specimens" and "Percutaneous, fine-needle aspiration, and laparoscopic liver biopsy" and "Transjugular liver biopsy".)


There are several limitations of liver biopsy for assessing liver disease, including:

Variable quality of liver biopsy specimens – Specimens shorter than 2 cm in length may be difficult to interpret. Larger caliber needles may yield better samples than fine needle biopsies [1,2]. As an example, small specimens may underestimate the degree of inflammatory activity and fibrosis in patients with viral hepatitis [3].

Sampling variability – The assessment of liver histology is usually based on a percutaneous biopsy that samples a very small portion (1/50,000th) of the liver [4]. Liver disease does not always affect the liver in a homogeneous pattern, leading to the possibility of sampling variability. The most common setting for sampling error is in a cirrhotic liver [4].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 30, 2015.
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