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World J Radiol. Dec 31, 2009; 1(1): 72-85
Published online Dec 31, 2009. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v1.i1.72
Magnetic resonance imaging of the liver: New imaging strategies for evaluating focal liver lesions
Kenneth Coenegrachts
Kenneth Coenegrachts, Department of Radiology, AZ St.-Jan Brugge-Oostende AV, Ruddershove 10, B-8000 Bruges, Belgium
Author contributions: Coenegrachts K contributed solely to this paper.
Correspondence to: Kenneth Coenegrachts, MD, PhD, Department of Radiology, AZ St.-Jan Brugge-Oostende AV, Ruddershove 10, B-8000 Bruges, Belgium.
Telephone: +32-50-452103 Fax: +32-50-452146
Received: October 10, 2009
Revised: November 12, 2009
Accepted: November 16, 2009
Published online: December 31, 2009

The early detection of focal liver lesions, particularly those which are malignant, is of utmost importance. The resection of liver metastases of some malignancies (including colorectal cancer) has been shown to improve the survival of patients. Exact knowledge of the number, size, and regional distribution of liver metastases is essential to determine their resectability. Almost all focal liver lesions larger than 10 mm are demonstrated with current imaging techniques but the detection of smaller focal liver lesions is still relatively poor. One of the advantages of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the liver is better soft tissue contrast (compared to other radiologic modalities), which allows better detection and characterization of the focal liver lesions in question. Developments in MRI hardware and software and the availability of novel MRI contrast agents have further improved the diagnostic yield of MRI in lesion detection and characterization. Although the primary modalities for liver imaging are ultrasound and computed tomography, recent studies have suggested that MRI is the most sensitive method for detecting small liver metastatic lesions, and MRI is now considered the pre-operative standard method for diagnosis. Two recent developments in MRI sequences for the upper abdomen comprise unenhanced diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), and keyhole-based dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) MRI (4D THRIVE). DWI allows improved detection (b = 10 s/mm2) of small (< 10 mm) focal liver lesions in particular, and is useful as a road map sequence. Also, using higher b-values, the calculation of the apparent diffusion coefficient value, true diffusion coefficient, D, and the perfusion fraction, f, has been used for the characterization of focal liver lesions. DCE 4D THRIVE enables MRI of the liver with high temporal and spatial resolution and full liver coverage. 4D THRIVE improves evaluation of focal liver lesions, providing multiple arterial and venous phases, and allows the calculation of perfusion parameters using pharmacokinetic models. 4D THRIVE has potential benefits in terms of detection, characterization and staging of focal liver lesions and in monitoring therapy.

Keywords: Magnetic resonance imaging, Liver neoplasms, Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, 4D THRIVE, Dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging, Contrast agents