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J Ultrasound Med. 2002 Sep;21(9):1023-32; quiz 1033-4.

Sonography of diffuse liver disease.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA.


Sonography is often the first imaging procedure performed in the evaluation of individuals with suspected liver disease. Evaluation for biliary dilatation is always performed, because bile duct obstruction can cause abnormal liver test results, raising the suspicion of liver disease. Ultrasound is a useful but imperfect tool in evaluating diffuse liver disease. We discuss the uses and limitations of sonography in evaluating parenchymal liver disease. Sonography can show hepatomegaly, fatty infiltration of the liver, and cirrhosis, all with good but imperfect sensitivity and specificity. Sonography is of limited usefulness in acute hepatitis. Increased parenchymal echogenicity is a reliable criterion for diagnosing fatty liver. Cirrhosis can be diagnosed in the correct clinical setting when the following are present: a nodular liver surface, decreased right lobe-caudate lobe ratio, and indirect evidence of portal hypertension (collateral vessels and splenomegaly). Ultrasound plays an important role in the imaging of conditions and procedures common in patients with diffuse liver disease.

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