Liver cancer imaging: role of CT, MRI, US and PET

Cancer Imaging. 2004 Apr 2;4 Spec No A(Spec No A):S42-6. doi: 10.1102/1470-7330.2004.0011.


Liver imaging in patients with a history of known or suspected malignancy is important because the liver is a common site of metastatic spread, especially tumours from the colon, lung, pancreas and stomach, and in patients with chronic liver disease who are at risk for developing hepatocellular carcinoma. Since benign liver lesions are common, liverimaging strategies should incorporate liver lesion detection and characterisation. Survey examination in patients with a known extra-hepatic malignancy to exclude the presence of hepatic and extra-hepatic involvement is normally undertaken with a contrast-enhanced computed tomography examination. When patients with hepatic metastases are being considered for metastasesectomy, they undergo a staging examination with contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) using tissue-specific contrast agents. Patients with chronic liver disease who are at risk for hepatocellular carcinoma undergo periodic liver screening for focal liver detection, usually with ultrasonography (US) with MRI being used when US is equivocal. Finally, contrast-enhanced MRI with extra-cellular gadolinium chelates is preferred for characterisation of indeterminate hepatic masses with liver biopsy used when tissue diagnosis is needed.