What’s the Difference Between Fibrosis & Cirrhosis?

Many liver diseases have long-lasting consequences on liver function, especially when they lead to cirrhosis. But liver fibrosis is also a gradual change in liver function and shape, and it sounds very similar. However, they are not the same thing. One of them is more severe than the other. One is reversible, and the other is not. One leads to severe consequences and complications, while the other is only a stage of liver disease.

We are comparing liver fibrosis with liver cirrhosis in this article. What is each one of them? Can we have both conditions at the same time? What’s the main difference in the liver’s shape, structure, and function between the two conditions?

What is fibrosis?

What is fibrosis?

Fibrosis is a process of repair that any tissue undergoes after suffering an extensive lesion. To bring back the normal structure of the tissue, the body creates more extracellular matrix components and accumulates them to build the rest of the tissue on top. The initial idea is to provide support for new tissue. Still, when the lesion is extensive or associated with chronic inflammation, the extracellular matrix accumulation is excessive and becomes intrusive.

Liver fibrosis is a typical result of ongoing inflammation of the organ. For example, in hepatitis C and other forms of chronic hepatitis, there is sustained and extensive inflammation of the liver. This inflammation activates the formation of an extracellular matrix because the body believes that there’s a lesion to repair. But instead of repairing the liver, the accumulated fibrotic tissue gets in the way, obstructing the function of the organ.

Since fibrosis is simply an accumulation of extracellular matrix, and the process naturally clears itself, the condition is entirely reversible. However, certain conditions must be met. First, the inflammation of the liver and infection with the hepatitis virus should stop. Second, there should be at least a small functional portion of the liver to trigger the organ’s repair. Third, fibrosis should not turn into cirrhosis, which is the next step of the process.

Written by Martin Davis