Comparative 13-year meta-analysis of the sensitivity and positive predictive value of ultrasound, CT, and MRI for detecting hepatocellular carcinoma

Robert F Hanna, Vesselin Z Miloushev, An Tang, Lee A Finklestone, Sidney Z Brejt, Ranjit S Sandhu, Cynthia S Santillan, Tanya Wolfson, Anthony Gamst, Claude B Sirlin
Abdominal Radiology 2016, 41 (1): 71-90

PURPOSE: To compare the per-lesion sensitivity and positive predictive value (PPV) of ultrasonography (US), computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The meta-analysis of sensitivity included 242 studies (15,713 patients); 116 studies (7492 patients) allowed calculation of PPV. Pooled per-lesion sensitivity and PPV for HCC detection were compared using empirical Bayes estimates of a beta-binomial model.

RESULTS: The pooled per-lesion sensitivity and PPV of contrast-enhanced CT (73.6%, 85.8%) and gadolinium-enhanced MRI (77.5%, 83.6%) are not significantly different (P = 0.08, P = 0.2). However, if the hepatobiliary agent gadoxetate is used, MRI has significantly higher pooled per-lesion sensitivity and PPV (85.6%, 94.2%) than CT (P < 0.0001) or than MRI with other agents (P < 0.0001). Non-contrast-enhanced US has the lowest overall sensitivity and PPV (59.3%, 77.4%). Pooled per-lesion sensitivity and PPV of contrast-enhanced US (84.4%, 89.3%) are relatively high, but no contrast-enhanced US study used the most rigorous reference standards.

CONCLUSION: MRI utilizing the hepatobiliary agent gadoxetate has the highest overall sensitivity and PPV, and may be the single optimal method for diagnosis of HCC. Non-contrast-enhanced US has the lowest sensitivity and PPV. More rigorous reference standards are needed to compare the performance of contrast-enhanced US with CT and MRI. Differences in sensitivity and PPV between CT and conventional gadolinium-enhanced MRI are not statistically significant overall.

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