OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to determine the diagnostic performance of hepatobiliary phase hypointensity and Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System (LI-RADS) major imaging features in the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in hepatic lesions with arterial phase hyperenhancement (APHE) measuring 10-19 mm in patients at high risk of HCC. MATERIALS AND METHODS. A composite reference standard of pathologic analysis and imaging follow-up was used. The diagnostic performance (sensitivity and specificity) of hepatobiliary phase hypointensity and LI-RADS major imaging features other than APHE for the diagnosis of HCC was assessed and compared by means of a logistic regression model. RESULTS. This retrospective dual-institution study included 189 LI-RADS LR-3 and LR-4 lesions measuring 10-19 mm and having APHE in 144 consecutively registered patients (96 men, 48 women; mean age, 58 years). Hepatobiliary phase hypointensity had significantly higher sensitivity (84% [92/109], p < 0.00001) than major imaging features in the diagnosis of HCC but lower specificity (84% [67/80]; p = 0.01). However, hepatobiliary phase hypointensity in LR-3 observations measuring 10-19 mm and having APHE had moderately elevated sensitivity (73% [44/60]) and specificity (85%, 64/75). All three major imaging features had high specificity for the diagnosis of HCC, including 95% (76/80) for washout, 100% (80/80) for enhancing capsule, and 99% (79/80) for threshold growth. CONCLUSION. Major imaging features have high specificity for the diagnosis of HCC in lesions measuring 10-19 mm that have APHE. The finding of hepatobiliary phase hypointensity significantly improves sensitivity while moderately high specificity is maintained for the diagnosis of HCC in LR-3 lesions measuring 10-19 mm that exhibit APHE.
Keywords: MRI; cirrhosis; gadoxetate disodium; gadoxetic acid; hepatocellular carcinoma; liver; sensitivity; specificity.