• ablation treatment;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • ultrasound contrast agent

Abstract: Background. The aim of this study was to compare contrast-enhanced gray-scale harmonic ultrasound with multiphasic spiral computed tomography in the assessment of treatment efficacy of non-surgically treated HCC.

Methods. We studied 56 HCCs treated by percutaneous ethanol injection (31 cases), radiofrequency ablation (three cases), trans-arterial chemoembolization (12 cases), and combined treatment (10 cases). The efficacy of therapies was blindly assessed by multiphasic computed tomography and gray-scale harmonic ultrasound with a second-generation contrast agent (sulfur hexafluoride).

Results. On computed tomography 30 tumors (53.6%) showed complete necrosis, while 26 lesions (45.4%) were still viable. On contrast-enhanced ultrasound examination 33/56 nodules (58.9%) had no contrast enhancement in the arterial phase, while 23/56 lesions (41.1%) were still vascularized. All the nodules assessed as completely necrotic on computed tomography did not show arterial enhancement on contrast-enhanced ultrasound and diagnostic agreement was found in 53/56 cases (94.6%) (P<0.001). Contrast-enhanced ultrasound demonstrated relative sensitivity and specificity of 87.0% and 98.4%.

Conclusions. Contrast-enhanced harmonic ultrasound is promising in the efficacy evaluation of ablation treatments for HCC. Nodules vascularized in the arterial phase on contrast harmonic ultrasound should be considered still viable and addressed to additional treatment without further evaluation.