Hepatobiliary MR contrast agents are useful to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome

Morgane Van Wettere, Luisa Paulatto, Lucas Raynaud, Onorina Bruno, Audrey Payancé, Aurélie Plessier, Pierre-Emmanuel Rautou, Valérie Paradis, Dominique Cazals-Hatem, Dominique Valla, Valérie Vilgrain, Maxime Ronot
JHEP reports: innovation in hepatology 2020, 2 (3): 100097

Background & Aims: Hepatobiliary phase (HBP) images can discriminate between benign and malignant liver lesions, but it is unclear if this approach can be used in patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome (BCS). Thus, we aimed to assess the diagnostic utility of HBP images in patients with BCS.

Methods: This retrospective study included all patients admitted to our institution with a diagnosis of BCS and focal liver lesions on hepatobiliary contrast agent-enhanced MR imaging (HBCA-MRI) from 2000 to 2019. MR images were reviewed by 2 radiologists blinded to the diagnosis of the lesions. Patient and lesion characteristics were recorded, focusing on HBP imaging features.

Results: Twenty-six patients (mean 35 ± 11 years old [13-65]; 21 women [81%] 35 ± 12 years old [13-65]; 5 men [19%] 36 ± 10 years old [19-44]) with 99 benign liver lesions and 12 hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) were analyzed. Patients with HCC were significantly older than those with benign lesions (mean 50 ± 10 vs. 33 ± 9 years old, p  = 0.003), with higher alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels (3/4 [75%] vs. 1/22 [5%] with AFP >15 ng/ml, p <0.001). Homogeneous hypointense signals were identified on HBP in 14 lesions, including 12/12 (100%) HCCs, and 2/99 (2%) benign lesions ( p <0.001). Most benign liver lesions showed either peripheral (n = 52/99 [53%]) or homogeneous hyperintensity (n = 23/99 [23%]) on HBP. Lesions with signal hypointensity on HBP in patients with AFP serum levels >15 ng/ml were all HCCs.

Conclusion: Most benign lesions showed homogeneous or peripheral hyperintensity on HBP images while all HCCs were homogeneously hypointense. HBP images are helpful to differentiate between benign lesions and HCCs and outperform other sequences. They should be systematically acquired for the characterization of focal lesions in patients with BCS.

Lay summary: Hepatobiliary phase imaging is an approach that has recently been shown to discriminate between benign and malignant lesions in the liver. However, it was not known whether this imaging approach could be used effectively in patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome. Herein, we have shown that hepatobiliary phase imaging appears to be useful for differentiating between benign and malignant liver lesions in patients with Budd-Chiari syndrome.

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