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Systematic review of the diagnostic performance of serum markers of liver fibrosis in alcoholic liver disease

Julie Parkes1*, Indra Neil Guha2, Scott Harris1, William MC Rosenberg34 and Paul J Roderick1

Author Affiliations

1 Primary Care & Population Sciences Faculty of Medicine University of Southampton (MP 805) South Academic Block Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Rd, Southampton, SO16 6YD, UK

2 Nottingham Digestive Diseases Centre Biomedical Research Unit University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

3 Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, University College London, Division of Medicine, London, UK

4 UCLH/UCL NIHR Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre, London, UK

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Comparative Hepatology 2012, 11:5  doi:10.1186/1476-5926-11-5

Published: 28 December 2012



Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a significant cause of death and morbidity. Detection of liver fibrosis at an early stage could provide opportunities for more optimal management. Serum markers of liver fibrosis offer an alternative to biopsy. Evidence of the performance of biomarkers in ALD is needed and a systematic review to evaluate available studies was conducted.


Electronic databases were searched. Studies were included if they evaluated paired samples of biopsy and serum, and presented data as sensitivity, specificity, or ROC curves.


15 studies were included- median participant number = 146 (range 44–1034). Studies differed with respect to patient populations. 6 single markers were evaluated (mostly Hyaluronic Acid), and ten combined panels. Biomarkers could discriminate between people with severe fibrosis/cirrhosis with high diagnostic accuracy- HA (median AUROC 0.79 range 0.69-0.93), panels (median AUROC 0.83 range 0.38-0.95). Significant heterogeneity precluded pooling. Performance was poorer for detecting less severe fibrosis.


There are limited numbers of small studies evaluating the accuracy of biomarkers in identifying fibrosis on biopsy in ALD. Some showed promise (both HA alone and some panels) in the identification of cirrhosis/severe fibrosis and could be used to rule it out in heavy drinkers. Biomarkers less accurate with less severe fibrosis.

Alcoholic liver disease; Systematic review; Serum markers; Liver fibrosis