Chronic liver disease (CLD) is a slow and silent killer. It is widespread with about 15% prevalence worldwide. About 32,000 people die each year in the US from liver disease. The estimated cost of treating patients with chronic liver disease due to the Hepatitis C virus infection ranges from $17,000 to $60,000 per patient per year. Thus, CLD takes a very large human toll and has a high economic burden on society.
Much improvement is needed in the management of liver disease, especially due to the national focus on healthcare accountability and cost containment. Blood tests are routinely used but generally don't give an accurate assessment of severity until very late when the disease is advanced and treatments are less effective. A liver biopsy can be done but it is an invasive surgical procedure and costly. It is also subject to error since only a small piece of a large organ is sampled.