Korean J Radiol.  2020 Mar;21(3):280-289. 10.3348/kjr.2019.0447.

Characterizing Computed Tomography-Detected Arterial Hyperenhancing-Only Lesions in Patients at Risk of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Can Non-Contrast Magnetic Resonance Imaging Be Used for Sequential Imaging?

  • 1Department of Radiology, Gil Medical Center, Gachon University College of Medicine, Incheon, Korea.
  • 2Department of Radiology, Ajou University Hospital, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea. kbh@ajou.ac.kr
  • 3Department of Radiology and Research Institute of Radiology, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


To test the feasibility of non-contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in a sequential imaging study for characterizing computed tomography (CT)-detected arterial-enhancing nodules that do not washout in patients at risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
In this retrospective study, 134 patients (mean age ± standard deviation, 56.8 ± 10.0 years) with 151 arterial enhancing-only nodules measuring up to 2 cm during multiphasic CT that were subsequently evaluated using gadoxetic acid-enhanced MRI in treatment-naïve at-risk patients from three tertiary referral centers were included. Tentative diagnostic criteria for HCC and hepatic malignancy were defined as the presence of one of eight MRI features favoring HCC in combinations of the following sequences: T2-weighted imaging (T2WI), diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), T1-weighted dual gradient-echo in-phase and out-of-phase imaging (Dual-GRE), and hepatobiliary phase imaging (HBP). Typical hemangiomas and arterioportal shunts were excluded from the analysis. Diagnostic performance for HCC and hepatic malignancy was calculated and compared between the abbreviated MRI and full-sequence gadoxetic acid-enhanced MRI.
Of 151 nodules (mean size, 1.2 cm) 68 HCCs and 83 non-HCC benignities and malignancies were included. The combination of T2WI, DWI, and Dual-GRE showed per-lesion sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 88.2%, 90.4%, and 89.4%, respectively, comparable to those of full-sequence MRI. Applying the same sequence combination to diagnose hepatic malignancy had per-lesion sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 86.8%, 97.3%, and 92.1%. In nodules < 1 cm, adding HBP increased sensitivity by up to 13% without compromising the specificity or accuracy.
The non-contrast MRI protocol comprising T2WI, DWI, and Dual-GRE showed reasonable and comparable performance to full-sequence MRI for discriminating HCC and primary liver malignancies in CT-detected indeterminate arterial enhancing-only nodules in at-risk patients, and can be potentially used for sequential imaging in place of a full-sequence MRI. In nodules < 1 cm, HBP may still be needed to preserve sensitivity.


Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver; Magnetic resonance imaging; Noncontrast MRI

MeSH Terms

Carcinoma, Hepatocellular*
Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
Retrospective Studies
Sensitivity and Specificity
Tertiary Care Centers
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