In chronic viral hepatitis, the role of liver biopsy as a diagnostic test has seen a decline, paralleled by its increasing importance for prognostic purposes. Nowadays, the main indication for liver biopsy in chronic viral hepatitis is to assess the severity of the disease, in terms of both necro-inflammation (grade) and fibrosis (stage), which is important for prognosis and therapeutic management. Several scoring systems have been proposed for grading and staging chronic viral hepatitis and there is no a general consensus on the best system to be used in the daily practice. All scoring systems have their drawbacks and all may be affected by sampling and observer variability. Whatever the system used, a histological score is a reductive approach since damage in chronic viral hepatitis is a complex biological process. Thus, scoring systems are not intended to replace the detailed, descriptive, pathology report. In fact, lesions other than those scored for grading and staging may have clinical relevance and should be assessed and reported. This paper aims to provide a systematic approach to the interpretation of liver biopsies obtained in cases of chronic viral hepatitis, with the hope of helping general pathologists in their diagnostic practice.
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