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What is a Fibroscan? - Understanding the Procedure



Learn about the benefits of Fibroscan, a non-invasive medical procedure used to diagnose liver diseases. Discover how Fibroscan is performed, what it measures, and how it can help detect scarring in your liver early.

What is a Fibroscan? - Understanding the Procedure

A brief overview of liver diseases and their prevalence

Liver diseases are prevalent worldwide, with an estimated 844 million people having chronic liver disease. In the United States, liver disease is the fourth leading cause of death among people aged 45 to 54. The prevalence of liver diseases is influenced by several factors, including alcohol consumption, obesity, viral hepatitis, and exposure to toxins. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment are essential for managing liver disease and preventing serious complications.

What is Fibroscan?

Fibroscan is a diagnostic tool that uses ultrasound technology for liver stiffness measurement. It works by sending a low-frequency vibration into the liver tissue and measuring the speed at which the vibration travels through the liver. This measurement provides an estimate of the liver's stiffness, which is correlated with the degree of liver fibrosis or scarring. Fibroscan can be a valuable tool in diagnosing liver disease because liver stiffness is a key indicator of liver damage. Fibroscan results are typically reported in kilopascals (kPa) and are interpreted based on established cutoff values for liver stiffness.

A new version becomes available nowadays which can measure liver fat (steatosis) in addition to liver fibrosis to assess liver damage in patients with chronic liver disease.

Explanation of how it works

Fibroscan is a noninvasive diagnostic tool that works by using a technique called transient elastography. The device uses ultrasound technology to assess liver stiffness, which is an indicator of liver fibrosis or scarring.

The Fibroscan device has a probe that emits a low-frequency vibration, which is transmitted through the liver tissue. The vibration is painless and not harmful to the liver.

The probe also contains an ultrasound transducer, which sends and receives sound waves to measure the speed of the vibration as it passes through the liver. The speed of the vibration is directly proportional to the stiffness of the liver tissue. The measurement of the speed of the vibration is done at multiple points in the liver to ensure an accurate assessment of the liver stiffness.

The Fibroscan device then uses a mathematical algorithm to calculate the liver stiffness based on the speed of the vibration. The results are reported in kilopascals (kPa), which is a measure of pressure. The higher the kPa value, the greater the degree of liver stiffness and the more severe the fibrosis score.

Comparison with traditional liver diagnostic procedures

Fibroscan is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that has several advantages over traditional liver diagnostic procedures. Here are some of the key differences and benefits of Fibroscan:

1. Non-invasive: Fibroscan is a non-invasive procedure that does not require a needle or any other invasive method to access the liver. This makes it a safer and less painful option than traditional liver biopsy procedures.

2. Faster and more convenient: Fibroscan is a quick and easy procedure that can be done in an outpatient setting. The entire test usually takes less than 15 minutes, which is much faster than a liver biopsy.

3. Lower risk of complications: Traditional liver biopsy procedures carry a risk of complications such as bleeding, pain, and infection. Fibroscan has a very low risk of complications and is generally considered to be a very safe procedure.

4. Repeatable: Fibroscan can be repeated over time to monitor changes in liver stiffness and track the progression of liver fibrosis. Traditional liver biopsy procedures are typically done only once because of the invasiveness and potential risks involved.

5. Provides immediate results: Fibroscan provides immediate results that can be interpreted on the spot, while traditional liver biopsy results can take several days to be processed and analyzed.

Overall, Fibroscan is a more convenient, less invasive, and safer diagnostic option compared to traditional liver biopsy procedures. It can provide valuable information about the degree of liver stiffness and the progression of liver fibrosis, which can aid in the early detection and treatment of liver diseases.

Benefits of Fibroscan

The benefits of a Fibroscan for liver disease diagnosis are numerous.

Firstly, the procedure is non-invasive, meaning that it does not require any incisions or needles. This makes it a more comfortable and less risky procedure than traditional diagnostic procedures that may involve biopsies or other invasive measures. Fibroscan is a safer alternative for individuals who may be at risk of complications from invasive procedures.

Secondly, the procedure is quick and painless. The entire procedure takes only a few minutes and involves the patient lying on their back while the Fibroscan probe is placed on the skin over the liver. Patients do not need to be sedated or require any special preparation for the procedure, making it an efficient and convenient option for liver disease diagnosis.

Thirdly, the accuracy and reliability of the results obtained from Fibroscan make it a valuable diagnostic tool. The procedure can detect liver injury at an early stage, making it possible for early treatment and better management of liver diseases. This early detection can lead to better outcomes and a higher chance of recovery for individuals diagnosed with liver diseases.

Additionally, Fibroscan is a cost-effective procedure compared to other traditional diagnostic methods. The procedure is less expensive and less time-consuming, making it an attractive option for healthcare providers and patients.

Conditions that can be diagnosed with Fibroscan

Fibroscan can diagnose several conditions related to liver disease, including fatty liver disease, hepatitis C, cirrhosis, and alcoholic liver disease. The procedure is particularly useful for detecting liver damage caused by these conditions at an early stage before serious complications occur.

Preparation for a Fibroscan procedure

If you are scheduled to undergo a Fibroscan procedure, there are a few things you need to do to prepare. You should not eat or drink for at least two hours before the procedure. You should also avoid wearing tight clothing that could restrict the probe's movement during the procedure. After the procedure, you can resume your normal activities immediately.

Interpretation of Fibroscan results

The interpretation of Fibroscan results involves understanding the measurement of liver stiffness, which is measured in kilopascals (kPa). The higher the kPa value, the greater the stiffness, indicating more severe liver damage.

The Fibroscan results are then compared to a range of normal values for a healthy liver. The interpretation of the results depends on the specific liver condition being diagnosed, and the results may vary depending on the patient's age, sex, and body mass index (BMI).

Fibroscan can diagnose several conditions related to liver disease, including fatty liver disease, hepatitis C, cirrhosis, and alcoholic liver disease. For each of these conditions, different ranges of kPa values indicate different degrees of liver damage. For example, for hepatitis C, a kPa value of 7.1 to 9.5 indicates mild liver damage, 9.6 to 12.4 indicates moderate damage, and greater than 12.4 indicates severe damage. This interpretation, therefore, requires knowledge of the normal range of kPa values for a healthy liver and the specific values for the liver condition being diagnosed.

Fibroscan® results are expressed into 5 grades of fibrosis and 4 degrees of steatosis.

F0 No fibrosis

F1 Mild fibrosis

F2 Moderate fibrosis

F3 Severe fibrosis

F4 Advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis


S0 Normal liver fat content

S1 Mild fatty liver

S2 Moderate fatty liver

S3 Severe fatty liver

Risks and side effects of Fibroscan

While Fibroscan is a relatively safe and painless procedure, there are potential risks and side effects that patients should be aware of. These may include discomfort or pain during the procedure, bruising, and skin irritation at the site of the probe. However, the risks of Fibroscan are generally lower than those associated with traditional diagnostic procedures.

In conclusion, the benefits of Fibroscan for liver disease diagnosis are numerous. The procedure is non-invasive, quick, accurate, and cost-effective, making it an attractive option for healthcare providers and patients. Early detection and treatment of liver diseases can help prevent serious complications and improve health outcomes. If you are at risk of liver disease or have symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider about the possibility of a Fibroscan procedure to detect any potential issues early on. I will leave you now with a subtitled video about the interpretation of the Fibroscan results.