Anca Trifan, Carol Stanciu, "Gr. T. Popa" University of Medicine and Pharmacy, "St. Spiridon" University Hospital, Independenţei 1, 700111 Iaşi, Romania.
Liver biopsy (LB) has traditionally been considered the gold standard for pretreatment evaluation of liver fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC). However, LB is an invasive procedure with several shortcomings (intra- and interobserver variability of histopathological interpretation, sampling errors, high cost) and the risk of rare but potentially life-threatening complications. In addition, LB is poorly accepted by patients and it is not suitable for repeated evaluation. Furthermore, the prevalence of CHC makes LB unrealistic to be performed in all patients with this disease who are candidates for antiviral therapy. The above-mentioned drawbacks of LB have led to the development of noninvasive methods for the assessment of liver fibrosis. Several noninvasive methods, ranging from serum marker assays to advanced imaging techniques, have proved to be excellent tools for the evaluation of liver fibrosis in patients with CHC, whereas the value of LB as a gold standard for staging fibrosis prior to antiviral therapy has become questionable for clinicians. Despite significant resistance from those in favor of LB, noninvasive methods for pretreatment assessment of liver fibrosis in patients with CHC have become part of routine clinical practice. With protease inhibitors-based triple therapy already available and substantial improvement in sustained virological response, the time has come to move forward to noninvasiveness, with no risks for the patient and, thus, no need for LB in the assessment of liver fibrosis in the decision making for antiviral therapy in CHC.