BACKGROUND: Liver fibrosis is often accompanied by steatosis, particularly in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and its non-invasive characterisation is of utmost importance. Vibration-controlled transient elastography is the non-invasive method of choice; however, recent research suggests that steatosis may influence its diagnostic performance. Controlled Attenuation Parameter (CAP) added to transient elastography enables simultaneous assessment of steatosis and fibrosis. AIM: To determine how to use CAP in interpreting liver stiffness measurements. METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of data from an individual patient data meta-analysis on CAP. The main exclusion criteria for the current analysis were unknown aetiology, unreliable elastography measurement and data already used for the same research question. Aetiology-specific liver stiffness measurement cut-offs were determined and used to estimate positive and negative predictive values (PPV/NPV) with logistic regression as functions of CAP. RESULTS: Two thousand and fifty eight patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria (37% women, 18% NAFLD/NASH, 42% HBV, 40% HCV, 51% significant fibrosis ≥ F2). Youden optimised cut-offs were only sufficient for ruling out cirrhosis (NPV of 98%). With sensitivity and specificity-optimised cut-offs, NPV for ruling out significant fibrosis was moderate (70%) and could be improved slightly through consideration of CAP. PPV for significant fibrosis and cirrhosis were 68% and 55% respectively, despite specificity-optimised cut-offs for cirrhosis. CONCLUSIONS: Liver stiffness measurement values below aetiology-specific cut-offs are very useful for ruling out cirrhosis, and to a lesser extent for ruling out significant fibrosis. In the case of the latter, Controlled Attenuation Parameter can improve interpretation slightly. Even if cut-offs are very high, liver stiffness measurements are not very reliable for ruling in fibrosis or cirrhosis.
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