Comparison between Computer Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Diagnosis of Small Hepatocellular Carcinoma

  • Lertpipopmetha, Korn (Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Songklanagarind Hospital, Prince of Songkla University) ;
  • Tubtawee, Teeravut (Department of Radiology, Faculty of Medicine Songklanagarind Hospital, Prince of Songkla University) ;
  • Piratvisuth, Teerha (Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Songklanagarind Hospital, Prince of Songkla University) ;
  • Chamroonkul, Naichaya (Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Songklanagarind Hospital, Prince of Songkla University)
  • Published : 2016.11.01


Background: Hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) less than 2 cm in diameter generally demonstrate a good outcome after curative therapy. However, the diagnosis of small HCC can be problematic and requires one or more dynamic imaging modalities. This study aimed to compare the sensitivity and agreement between CT and MRI for the diagnosis of small HCCs. Methods: CT and/or MRI scans of HCCs (1-2 cm) diagnosed by histopathology or typical vascular pattern according to the 2005 AASLD criteria were blindly reviewed by an abdominal radiologist. The reports were defined as conclusive/typical when arterial enhancement and washout during the portal/delayed phases were observed and as inconclusive when typical vascular patterns were not observed. The sensitivity and Cohen's kappa (k) for agreement were calculated. Results: In 27 patients, 27 HCC nodules (1-2 cm) were included. Diagnosis with a single-imaging modality (CT or MRI) was 81 % versus 48 % (p = 0.01). The CT sensitivity was significantly higher than MRI (78 % versus 52 %, p = 0.04). Among 27 nodules that underwent both CT and MRI, a discordance in typical enhancement patterns was found (k = 0.319, p = 0.05). In cases with inconclusive CT results, MRI gave only an additional 3.7 % sensitivity to reach a diagnosis. In contrast, further CT imaging following inconclusive MRI results gave an additional 29.6 % sensitivity.Conclusions: A single typical imaging modality is sufficient to diagnose small HCCs. Compared with MRI, multiphasic CT has a higher sensitivity. The limitations of MRI could be explained by the greater need for patient cooperation and the types of MRI contrast agent.


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