In alcoholic liver disease, fibrosis classically begins around the centrilobular veins, while portal tract fibrosis is described as inconstant and septal fibrosis is a late event. The aim of this study was to compare the roles of centrilobular fibrosis (CLF) and portal tract/septal fibrosis (PTF) especially in alcoholic chronic liver disease. One hundred and sixty patients with alcoholic chronic liver disease and 83 controls with viral chronic hepatitis were included. The PTF score, derived from the Metavir score, CLF and the area of fibrosis, assessed by image analysis, were evaluated on liver biopsies in addition to blood markers of fibrosis. The correlation between the PTF score and the area of fibrosis was higher in alcoholic liver disease (r = 0.87, p < 10(-4)) than in viral chronic hepatitis (r = 0.66, p < 10(-4)). The PTF score correlated with the CLF score (r = 0.92, p < 10(-4)), serum hyaluronate (r = 0.76, p < 10(-4)), and the prothrombin index (r = -0.77, p < 10(-4)). Multiple regression analyses showed that the area of fibrosis was explained only by the PTF score and not by the CLF score. PTF appears more frequent than CLF in alcoholic chronic liver disease, suggesting that PTF may precede CLF. PTF is more responsible for the amount of fibrosis than CLF. The results of this study also validate the use of the Metavir fibrosis score in alcoholic chronic liver disease.