The diagnostic imaging of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has recently undergone marked progress. The advent of the ultrasound (US) contrast agent Sonazoid, approved in January 2007, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the liver-specific MRI contrast agent gadolinium-ethoxybenzyl-diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (Gd-EOB-DTPA-MRI), approved in January 2008, are of particular significance. Sonazoid contrast-enhanced US (Sonazoid-CEUS) is useful not only for the diagnosis of HCC, but also for guiding treatment and assessing treatment response. Sonazoid-CEUS has proven to be particularly effective for screening and staging, which used to be considered impossible with CEUS, through the introduction of the newly developed diagnostic technique of defect reperfusion imaging. It is still not possible if other vascular agents such as SonoVue and Definity are used. In particular, Gd–EOB-DTPA-MRI has been suggested to be much more reliable in the differentiation of early HCC from precancerous dysplastic nodules than any other modalities such as multidetector raw computed tomography, dynamic MRI, and superparamagnetic iron oxide-MRI. A decrease in contrast uptake in the hepatocyte phase observed on EOB-MRI is strongly suggestive of cancer, and the absence of early staining in the arterial phase suggests early HCC. The differential diagnostic capacity of Gd-EOB-DTPA-MRI is considered to far exceed that of what were previously the most useful imaging techniques, computed tomography (CT) during hepatic arteriography or CT during arterial portography, and to be comparable to that of the pathological diagnosis by pathologists specialized in liver.

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