Quantitative assessment of HCC wash-out on CT is a predictor of early complete response to TACE

Eur Radiol. 2021 Sep;31(9):6578-6588. doi: 10.1007/s00330-021-07792-2. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Objectives: To investigate the predictive value of four-phase contrast-enhanced CT (CECT) for early complete response (CR) to drug-eluting-bead transarterial chemoembolization (DEB-TACE), with a particular focus on the quantitatively assessed wash-in and wash-out.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of preprocedural CECTs was performed for 129 HCC nodules consecutively subjected to DEB-TACE as first-line therapy. Lesion size, location, and margins were recorded. For the quantitative analysis, the following parameters were computed: contrast enhancement ratio (CER) and lesion-to-liver contrast ratio (LLC) as estimates of wash-in; absolute and relative wash-out (WOabs and WOrel) and delayed percentage attenuation ratio (DPAR) as estimates of wash-out. The early radiological response of each lesion was assessed by the mRECIST criteria and dichotomized in CR versus others (partial response, stable disease, and progressive disease).

Results: All quantitatively assessed wash-out variables had significantly higher rates for CR lesions (WOabs p = 0.01, WOrel p = 0.01, and DPAR p = 0.00002). However, only DPAR demonstrated an acceptable discriminating ability, quantified by AUC = 0.80 (95% CI0.73-0.88). In particular, nodules with DPAR ≥ 120 showed an odds ratio of 3.3(1.5-7.2) for CR (p = 0.0026). When accompanied by smooth lesion margins, DPAR ≥ 120 lesions showed a 78% CR rate at first follow-up imaging. No significative association with CR was found for quantitative wash-in estimates (CER and LLC).

Conclusions: Based on preprocedural CECT, the quantitative assessment of HCC wash-out is useful in predicting early CR after DEB-TACE. Among the different formulas for wash-out quantification, DPAR has the best discriminating ability. When associated, DPAR ≥ 120 and smooth lesion margins are related to relatively high CR rates.

Key points: • A high wash-out rate, quantitatively assessed during preprocedural four-phase contrast-enhanced CT (CECT), is a favorable predictor for early radiological complete response of HCC to drug-eluting-bead chemoembolization (DEB-TACE). • The arterial phase of CECT shows great dispersion of attenuation values among different lesions, even when a standardized protocol is used, limiting its usefulness for quantitative analyses. • Among the different formulas used to quantify the wash-out rate (absolute wash-out, relative wash-out, and delayed percentage attenuation ratio), the latter (DPAR), based only on the delayed phase, is the most predictive (AUC = 0.80), showing a significant association with complete response for values above 120.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Carcinoma, hepatocellular; Therapeutic chemoembolization; Tomography, X-ray computed.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / therapy
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome