MR imaging of hepatocellular carcinoma: Relationship between lesion size and imaging findings, including signal intensity and dynamic enhancement patterns
Purpose: To assess the relationship between lesion size and MR imaging findings of pathologically-proven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Materials and Methods: In a retrospective, single-center study, 37 consecutive patients were identified between 1999 and 2005 that underwent preoperative MRI and surgical resection of HCC. A total of 47 lesions (mean size = 6.85 cm, range = 1-25 cm) were assessed for signal intensity (SI), enhancement patterns, and secondary morphologic features. Interobserver rating, percentage enhancement, and contrast-to-noise-ratio (CNR) were determined. Lesions were assessed for combinations of typical MRI features. Regression analysis was used to assess relations between MRI findings and tumor size. Results: On fat-suppressed T2-weighted (T2w) fast-spinecho, smaller lesions had lower SI compared to larger lesions (P < 0.05). In the arterial phase, smaller lesions showed significantly higher percentage enhancement compared to larger lesions (P < 0.05). In the delayed phase, smaller lesions showed less pronounced washout (P < 0.05). Heterogeneity of the lesions, including fatty infiltration, internal nodules, or mosaic pattern, was observed significantly more frequently in larger lesions (P < 0.001). The classic combination of high T2w signal, strong arterial enhancement, and delayed phase washout was present in 23 of 44 lesions (52%). Conclusion: Smaller HCC often showed lower SI on T2w, more intense arterial enhancement, and less pronounced delayed washout compared to larger HCC.