Myocardial fibrosis is defined as an increased amount of collagen in the myocardium relative to cardiac myocytes. Two main morphologic patterns are recognized: 1) replacement fibrosis, which occurs in response to myocyte necrosis (myocardial scarring); and 2) interstitial fibrosis, which is usually a diffuse process and has been shown to be reversible and treatable. Replacement and interstitial fibrosis often coexist and are a constant feature of pathologic cardiac remodeling. In the last twenty years, there has been significant interest in developing objective non-invasive methods to identify and quantitatively assess myocardial fibrosis in vivo, both for diagnostic purposes and to improve stratification of patients.
The present Review focuses on the morphologic patterns of myocardial fibrosis observed either at autopsy and heart transplant, or in vivo by non-invasive imaging techniques. Main aim is to provide clues for the differential diagnosis, with emphasis on entities whose diagnosis may be challenging. An update on the diagnostic and prognostic role of imaging, along with recent data on available biomarkers, is also proposed.