The diagnostic and economic impact of contrast imaging techniques in the diagnosis of small hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis

Angelo Sangiovanni, Matteo A. Manini, Massimo Iavarone, Raffaella Romeo, Laura V. Forzenigo, Mirella Fraquelli, Sara Massironi, Cristina Della Corte, Guido Ronchi, Maria Grazia Rumi, Piero Biondetti, Massimo Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CE-US), contrast CT scan and gadolinium dynamic MRI are recommended for the characterisation of liver nodules detected during surveillance of patients with cirrhosis with US. Aim: To assess the sensitivity, specificity, diagnostic accuracy and economic impact of all possible sequential combinations of contrast imaging techniques in patients with cirrhosis with 1-2 cm liver nodules undergoing US surveillance. Patients/methods: 64 patients with 67 de novo liver nodules (55 with a size of 1-2 cm) were consecutively examined by CE-US, CT, MRI, and a fine-needle biopsy (FNB) as diagnostic standard. Undiagnosed nodules were re-biopsied; non-malignant nodules underwent enhanced imaging follow-up. The typical radiological feature of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was arterial phase hypervascularisation followed by portal/venous phase washout. Results: HCC was diagnosed in 44 (66%) nodules (2, 2 cm). The sensitivity of CEUS, CT and MRI for 1-2 cm HCC was 26, 44 and 44%, with 100% specificity, the typical vascular pattern of HCC being identified in 22 (65%) by a single technique versus 12 (35%) by at least two techniques carried out at the same time point (p=0.028). Compared with the cheapest dual examination (CE-US+CT), the cheapest single technique of stepwise imaging diagnosis of HCC was equally expensive (€26 440 vs €28 667), but led to a 23% reduction of FNB procedures (p=0.031). Conclusions: In patients with cirrhosis with a 1-2 cm nodule detected during surveillance, a single imaging technique showing a typical contrast pattern confidently permits the diagnosis of HCC, thereby reducing the need for FNB examinations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-644
Number of pages7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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