Contrast-enhanced ultrasound can guide the therapeutic strategy by improving the detection of colorectal liver metastases

Journal Paper/Review - Feb 12, 2021


Sawatzki M, Gueller U, Güsewell S, Husarik D, Semela D, Brand S. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound can guide the therapeutic strategy by improving the detection of colorectal liver metastases. J Hepatol 2021; 74:419-427.
Journal Paper/Review (English)
J Hepatol 2021; 74
Publication Date
Feb 12, 2021
Issn Electronic
Brief description/objective

CT may miss up to 30% of cases of colorectal liver metastases (CRLMs). We assessed the impact of contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) on the detection of CRLMs and on changes to the therapeutic strategy; additionally, we assessed the accuracy of CEUS in differentiating unclear focal liver lesions (FLLs) compared to staging-CT.

We prospectively analyzed all patients with newly diagnosed and histologically confirmed colorectal cancer (CRC) at our tertiary gastroenterological center between December 2015 and May 2019. CEUS was performed in a total of 296 patients without CRLMs after staging-CT using the contrast agent (SonoVue®). Standard of reference was obtained by MRI or histology to diagnose CRLMs missed by CT. Benign FLLs were confirmed by MRI or follow-up CT (mean follow-up interval: 18 months).

Eight additional CRLMs were detected by CEUS (overall 2.7%; sensitivity 88.9%, specificity 99.0%, positive predictive value 100%, negative predictive value 99.6%). All patients with CRLMs detected only by CEUS were in tumor stage T3/T4 (4.0% additionally detected CRLMs). The number needed to screen to detect 1 additional CRLM by CEUS was 37 in all patients and 24.5 in T3/T4-patients. When results were reviewed by a board-certified radiologist and oncologist, the therapeutic strategy changed in 6 of these 8 patients. Among the 62 patients (20.9%) with unclear FLLs after staging-CT, CEUS determined the dignity (malignant vs. benign) of 98.4% of the FLLs.

Overall, CEUS detected 2.7% additional CRLMs (including 4.0% in tumor stage T3/T4) with a significant impact on the oncological therapeutic strategy for 75% of these patients. Patients with tumor stage T3/T4 would particularly benefit from CEUS. We propose CEUS as the first imaging modality for CT-detected lesions of unknown dignity.

In patients with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer, contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) detected additional liver metastases after computed tomography (CT). In the majority of these patients, the oncological therapy was changed after obtaining the CEUS results. After staging-CT, 21% of hepatic lesions remained unclear. In these cases, CEUS was accurate to either reveal or exclude liver metastasis in nearly all patients and could reduce costs (e.g., number of MRI scans).