Background: The diagnosis of intrahepatic cholangiocellular carcinoma (ICC) remains elusive at imaging, which is a critical issue in cirrhotic patients in whom a diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) can be established only by imaging. Aim: The aim of the study was to evaluate the potential of MRI in the diagnosis of ICC in cirrhosis using ‘hepatocyte-specific' Gadolinium (Gd)-based contrast agents. Methods: Sixteen histologically proven and retrospectively identified ICCs on cirrhosis were investigated with hepatocyte-specific magnetic resonance contrast agents (6 in Bologna with Gd-EOB-DTPA and 10 in Milan with Gd-BOPTA). The control group consisted of 41 consecutively and prospectively collected nodules (31 HCCs) imaged with Gd-EOB-DTPA. Results: Fifteen ICC nodules (94%) displayed hypointensity in the hepatobiliary phase, suggesting malignancy. Thirteen cholangiocarcinomas (81%) showed hyperenhancement in the venous phase. Only 2 cholangiocarcinoma nodules showed hypoenhancement in the venous phase, corresponding to washout, in both cases preceded by rim enhancement in arterial phase. All the hepatocarcinomas showed hypointensity in hepatobiliary phase, but was always preceded by hypointensity in the venous phase; arterial rim enhancement was never observed in any hepatocarcinoma or regenerative nodule. Conclusions: MRI with hepatocyte-specific Gd-based contrast agents showed a pattern of malignancy in almost all the ICCs, concurrently avoiding misdiagnosis with hepatocarcinoma. These findings suggest a greater diagnostic capacity for this technique compared with the results of MRI with conventional contrast agents reported in the literature in this setting.

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