Imaging can pinpoint liver fibrosis without a biopsy

By Jeff Hansel

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Scientists at Mayo Clinic say they’ve shown that a new type of imaging can pinpoint liver fibrosis without a liver biopsy.

"Up until now, patients essentially had the option of either having a biopsy or not having a biopsy and continuing to monitor over time," Mayo hepatologist Dr. Jayant Talwalkar said during a recent telephone interview.

Key to the new technology called magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is the ability to determine how stiff a patient’s liver has become, says a Mayo statement.


Clinicians receive "elastograms" that are "color-coded."

Mayo had previously announced the new technique, but researchers now say they’ve proved the technology can recognize a wide variety of liver illnesses.

Equipment, the prototype and computer software were developed at Mayo, but it might take a couple of years before the technology is commercially available. For this reason, patients who are told they need a liver biopsy have begun seeking out Mayo for the test, Talwalkar said. It takes just seconds to perform, according to the clinic.

The test is being used at Mayo in Rochester and on Mayo’s other U.S. campuses.

"I know in Scottsdale they’ve been using it, and I think they’re starting to use it in Jacksonville," Talwalkar said. He notes that the hope is to eventually use the test to tell patients whether fibrosis is progressing.

Why is learning the extent of fibrosis so important?

Lifestyle changes and treatment can "help stop progression" of fibrosis to avoid cirrhosis and liver failure, according to Mayo.

How does the technology work? The clinic notes that low-frequency sound waves are transmitted into the abdomen and the wave motions are measured.


MREs in use at Mayo have shown a high degree of success in detecting moderate to severe liver fibrosis.

"Therefore we think the test will be widely useful," Talwalkar said.

Researchers are working on the use of MRE for Alzheimer’s diagnosis and cancer diagnosis.

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