Small hepatic nodules (≤2 cm) in cirrhosis patients: characterization with contrast-enhanced ultrasonography


Jing-Houng Wang, MD, Division of Hepatogastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, 123 Ta-Pei Rd, Niaosung 833, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
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Abstract: Aim: We evaluated the efficacy of contrast-enhanced ultrasonography (CEUS) for the characterization of small hepatic nodules (≤2 cm) in cirrhosis patients.

Patients and methods: Thirty cirrhosis patients with 30 hepatic nodules (1–2 cm) were enrolled in this study. Eighteen hepatic nodules were hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) and 12 were benign lesions. CEUS was performed using microbubble contrast (Levovist). With surrounding hepatic parenchyma as a reference, two characteristics of hepatic nodules, including arterial phase enhancement (AE) and the absence of delayed phase enhancement (ADE), were evaluated as criteria for the diagnosis of HCC. A radiologist independently reviewed the dynamic computed tomographies (CT) of 26 hepatic nodules.

Results: CEUS showed AE in 15 nodules (13 HCC and two benign) and ADE in 17 lesions (14 HCC and three benign). For HCC, the coincidental AE of both CEUS and dynamic CT was 40%. Using both AE and ADE for HCC diagnosis, the sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value and negative predictive values were 55.6%, 91.7%, 70%, 90.9% and 57.9%, respectively. When using either AE or ADE for HCC diagnosis, the same parameters were 94.4%, 66.7%, 83.3%, 81% and 88.9%, respectively. One benign hepatic nodule with both AE and ADE was diagnosed as HCC 29 months after the CEUS study.

Conclusions: A combination of characteristics of AE and ADE as determined by CEUS was highly specific for small HCCs in cirrhosis patients. Concurrent delayed phase imaging is useful in the diagnosis of small hypovascular HCCs.