Published online Mar 21, 2008. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.1710
Revised: November 1, 2007
Published online: March 21, 2008
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has a decisive influence on the prognosis of cirrhotic patients. Although α-fetoprotein (AFP) is a known and specific tumor maker for HCC, it is not suitable for the screening and surveillance of HCC because of its poor predictive value and low sensitivity. The use of imaging modalities is essential for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of HCC. Ultrasound (US) plays a major role among them, because it provides real-time and non-invasive observation by a simple and easy technique. In addition, US-guided needle puncture methods are frequently required for the diagnosis and/or treatment process of HCC. The development of digital technology has led to the detection of blood flow by color Doppler US, and the sensitivity for detecting tumor vascularity has shown remarkable improvement with the introduction of microbubble contrast agents. Moreover, near real-time 3-dimensional US images are now available. As for the treatment of HCC, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) was developed as a novel technology that provides a transcutaneous ablation effect without needle puncture. These advancements in the US field have led to rapid progress in HCC management, and continuing advances are expected. This article reviews the current application of US for HCC in clinical practice.