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New sonographic techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma


Professor Masatoshi Kudo, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Kinki University School of Medicine, 377-2 Ohno-Higashi, Osaka-Sayama, Osaka 589-8511, Japan. Email:


Ultrasound (US) contrast agents such as Levovist and Sonazoid are now commercially available in Japan. Innovative contrast agents and ultrasound technologies have dramatically changed both diagnostic and treatment strategies for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Contrast-enhanced US is extremely useful in the differential diagnosis of hepatic tumors as well as in evaluation of post-treatment response of HCC after lipiodol transarterial chemoembolization and radio frequency ablation. Harmonic US sensitively detects residual cancer cells in HCC patients after treatment, to facilitate accurate guidance for needle insertion for US monitoring; no other imaging modalities, including computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have such capability. In 2005, the breakthrough technology of pure arterial phase imaging, which depicts only intranodular arterial accumulated maximum intensity projection images, was developed from advanced raw data storing and accumulation technologies. This technique can clearly identify whether blood supplyin the tumor is of arterial or portal origin, to facilitate the non-invasive characterization of nodular lesions associated with liver cirrhosis. Again, CT or MRI do not have such capabilities. This innovative technique can help differentiate premalignant lesions from overt HCC. Concurrent real-time imaging of multi-detector CT and US, known as real-time virtual sonography, has recently become available. This technique greatly facilitates the treatment guidance for HCC. These newly introduced sonographic techniques are dramatically changing the diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for HCC, which are expected to improve the prognosis of HCC patients.