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Hepatology. 2009 May;49(5 Suppl):S22-7. doi: 10.1002/hep.22976.

Evaluation of the patient with hepatitis B.

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Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA.


The initial evaluation of a patient with hepatitis B virus infection should attempt to assess the disease activity and stage in the context of the known natural history of this infection and to properly assess the needs for treatment and surveillance. In addition to a medical history and focused physical examination, the initial evaluation usually requires serological, biochemical, and virological tests to confirm the diagnosis as well as an imaging study to establish a baseline for future monitoring. A liver biopsy is generally not needed but can provide useful information on prognosis, need for surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and whether to recommend therapy. Follow-up monitoring is aimed at determining disease progression, development of complications, and reassessing the need for treatment. Monitoring frequency should be determined based on the activity and stage of disease. Initiation of screening for HCC should be based on age, race, sex, family history, and stage and duration of disease. The current recommended method of screening and surveillance for HCC is by ultrasonography and alpha-fetoprotein measurements every 6-12 months. Prospective studies are needed to evaluate the role of longitudinal application of noninvasive assays of fibrosis, such as serum fibrosis markers and transient elastography. Better biomarkers and imaging modalities are needed for early detection of HCC. Finally, studies are needed to better refine the indications and to balance the risks and benefits of antiviral therapy.

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