Background: During the progression from low-grade dysplastic nodule (DN) to progressed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), intranodular portal tracts gradually disappear, while unpaired arteries develop increasingly. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is highly accurate in depicting intranodular vascularity. This study evaluates the usefulness of CEUS in the characterization of DN, early HCC and progressed HCC in cirrhotic livers.
Materials and methods: Forty consecutive patients with cirrhosis and a single hepatic nodule ≤2 cm underwent CEUS and subsequent ultrasound-guided biopsy of the nodule. Imaging and pathological findings of DN and HCC were compared.
Results: The homogeneous pattern of hypervascularization during the arterial phase identified progressed HCC with a sensitivity of 90.9% and a specificity of 100%, whereas the inhomogeneous and reticular pattern identified early HCC with a sensitivity of 85.7% and a specificity of 96.1%.
Conclusion: DN, early HCC and progressed HCC can be accurately differentiated with CEUS on the basis of the vascularization pattern during the arterial phase.