Effect of MRI versus MDCT on Milan criteria scores and liver transplantation eligibility

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OBJECTIVE: The Milan criteria for the selection of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) for liver transplantation were originally based on the findings of contrast-enhanced CT examinations. Studies have shown improvement in HCC detection of using contrast-enhanced MRI instead of CT, but they have provided little information on the potential downstream effect on patient management that might result from discrepant imaging findings. We sought to assess the effect of discrepant imaging findings on patient eligibility to undergo liver transplantation. MATERIALS AND METHODS: From 2006 to 2013, patients with a diagnosis of HCC who underwent both MDCT and MRI examinations within a 40-day period were studied retrospectively. All examinations were independently reviewed by two abdominal radiologists who recorded the number, diameter, and location of each lesion. Secondary confirmation of the lesions was made on the basis of histopathologic findings, diffusion restriction on DWI, increased T2 signal intensity, lesion growth, presence of fat, uptake of ethiodized oil, or a combination of these findings. RESULTS: Sixty-four patients (48 men and 16 women; mean age, 62 years) met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Of the 129 lesions identified by MRI, only 102 of these lesions (79%) were identified by MDCT. This discrepancy led to a difference in the Milan criteria scoring for nine patients (14%). There was no statistically significant difference in the mean (± SD) greatest lesion diameter measured using the two modalities, with measurements of 3.52 ± 2.8 cm and 3.46 ± 2.8 cm noted on MDCT and MRI, respectively (p = 0.8). Lesions missed on MDCT studies tended to be smaller, with a mean diameter of 2.7 cm. Of the 129 lesions identified by MRI, 112 (87%) had available histopathologic findings or other confirmatory diagnostic evidence. CONCLUSION: MDCT missed one-fifth of the HCC lesions detected by MRI. Had MDCT been the only imaging examination performed, failure to identify these lesions would have led to a different management plan for 14% of patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-733
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Roentgen Ray Society.


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver transplantation
  • MRI
  • Milan criteria


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