Aim: To introduce a computer-aided morphometric method for quantifying the necro-inflammatory phase in liver biopsy specimens using fractal geometry and Delaunay's triangulation. Methods: Two-micrometer thick biopsy sections taken from 78 chronic hepatitis C virus-infected patients were immunohistochemically treated to identify the inflammatory cells. An automatic computer-aided image analysis system was used to define the inflammatory cell network defined on the basis of Delaunay's triangulation, and the inflammatory cells were geometrically classified as forming a cluster (an aggregation of a minimum of three cells) or as being irregularly distributed within the tissue. The phase of inflammatory activity was estimated using Hurst's exponent. Results: The proposed automatic method was rapid and objective. It could not only provide rigorous results expressed by scalar numbers, but also allow the state of the whole organ to be represented by Hurst's exponent with an error of no more than 12%. Conclusion: The availability of rigorous metrical measures and the reasonable representativeness of the status of the organ as a whole raise the question as to whether the indication for hepatic biopsy should be revised by establishing clear rules concerning the contraindications suggested by its invasiveness and subjective interpretation.
- Fractal geometry
- Image analysis