Diagnostic accuracy of contrast-enhanced ultrasound for the differential diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma: ESCULAP versus CEUS-LI-RADS

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ObjectiveA comparison is made of two contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) algorithms for the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in high-risk patients: Erlanger Synopsis of Contrast-enhanced Ultrasound for Liver lesion Assessment in Patients at Risk (ESCULAP) and American College of Radiology Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound-Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System (ACR-CEUS-LI-RADSv.2016).Patients and methodsFocal liver lesions in 100 high-risk patients were assessed using both CEUS algorithms (ESCULAP and CEUS-LI-RADSv.2016) for a direct comparison. Lesions were categorized according to size and contrast enhancement in the arterial, portal venous and late phases.For the definite diagnosis of HCC, categories ESCULAP-4, ESCULAP-Tr and ESCULAP-V and CEUS-LI-RADS-LR-5, LR-Tr and LR-5-V were compared. In addition, CEUS-LI-RADS-category LR-M (definitely/probably malignant, but not specific for HCC) and ESCULAP-category C [intrahepatic cholangiocellular carcinoma (ICC)] were compared.Histology, CE-computed tomography and CE-MRI served as reference standards.ResultsThe reference standard among 100 lesions included 87 HCCs, six ICCs and seven non-HCC-non-ICC-lesions. For the diagnosis of HCC, the diagnostic accuracy of CEUS was significantly higher with ESCULAP versus CEUS-LI-RADS (94.3%/72.4%; p<0.01). Sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value for ESCULAP/CEUS-LI-RADS were 94.3%/72.4%; 61.5%/69.2%; 94.3%/94%; and 61.5%/27.3%, respectively.The diagnostic accuracy for ICC (LR-M/ESCULAP-C) was identical with both algorithms (50%), with higher PPV for ESCULAP-C versus LR-M (75 vs. 50%).ConclusionCEUS-based algorithms contribute toward standardized assessment and reporting of HCC-suspect lesions in high-risk patients. ESCULAP shows significantly higher diagnostic accuracy, sensitivity and negative predictive value with no loss of specificity compared with CEUS-LI-RADS. Both algorithms have an excellent PPV. Arterial hyperenhancement is the key feature for the diagnosis of HCC with CEUS. Washout should not be a necessary prerequisite for the diagnosis of definite HCC. CEUS-LI-RADS in its current version is inferior to ESCULAP for the noninvasive diagnosis of HCC. There are two ways to improve CEUS-LI-RADS: firstly, combination of the categories LR-4 and LR-5 for the diagnosis of definite HCC, and secondly, use of subtotal infiltration of a liver lobe as an additional feature.

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