Clinical utility of microbubble contrast-enhanced ultrasound in the diagnosis of hepatic artery occlusion after liver transplantation


Audun E. Berstad, Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet, Sognsvannsveien 20, N-0027 Oslo, Norway. Tel.: 47 23 07 26 00; fax: 47 23 07 26 10; e-mail:


To evaluate the frequency of use and the diagnostic accuracy of real-time contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) in the diagnosis of hepatic artery occlusion after liver transplantation. One hundred and fifty-two liver transplantations in 142 adult subjects, comprising 80 male patients and 62 female patients, were studied. After surgery, liver circulation was routinely assessed by conventional Doppler ultrasound (US). Wherever the examiners were not confident about the state of the circulation, CEUS was performed with one or more doses of a sulfur hexafluoride (SF-6)-containing second-generation contrast agent intravenously. Clinical follow up including repeat Doppler US, computed tomographic angiography (CTA) or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) of the liver vasculature were used as reference standards. During the first month after transplantation, Doppler US was inconclusive with regard to patency of the hepatic artery (HA) circulation in 20 (13 %) of 152 transplantations. CEUS was performed in these patients, and detected six cases of HA thrombosis (HAT) in five transplants. CEUS correctly ruled out HA occlusion in 15 transplants. All HA occlusions occurred during the first 14 days after transplantation. In the subset of transplantations examined with CEUS, the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of CEUS were 100%. In approximately 13% of cases, conventional Doppler US did not provide sufficient visualization of the HA after liver transplantation. In these cases, correct diagnosis was achieved by supplementary CEUS.