Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis remains a major public health problem worldwide. While the majority of complications from chronic liver disease result from progressive hepatic fibrosis, the available diagnostic tests used in clinical practice are not sensitive or specific enough to detect occult liver injury at early or intermediate stages. While liver biopsy can stage the extent of fibrosis at diagnosis, its utility as a tool for longitudinal monitoring will be limited at the population level. To date, a number of methods including serum marker panels and ultrasound-based transient elastrography have been proposed for the non-invasive identification of hepatic fibrosis. Novel techniques including magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy, diffusion weighted MR, and MR elastography have also emerged for detecting fibrosis. In contrast to other non-invasive methods, MR imaging holds the promise of providing functional and biological information about hepatic pathophysiology as it relates to the natural history and future treatment of hepatic fibrosis.
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