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Dig Liver Dis. 2010 Sep;42(9):635-41. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2010.01.009. Epub 2010 Feb 20.

Contrast-enhanced ultrasonography in evaluating hepatic metastases from neuroendocrine tumours.

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Gastroenterology Unit II, Fondazione IRCCS Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Mangiagalli e Regina Elena, Via F Sforza 35, 20122 Milano, Italy.



At presentation, gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (GEP NETs) frequently show prognostically negative hepatic involvement. The aim of this study was to characterise hepatic metastases of GEP NETs as revealed by contrast-enhanced ultrasonography (CEUS), which allows the fine definition of the microvascular system, and to correlate these findings to the biological behaviour of the tumour.


Eighteen out of 62 GEP NET patients examined between January 2007 and September 2008 had histologically proven hepatic metastases from primary ileal (#6), gastric (#1) or rectal (#1) carcinoids, pancreatic tumours (#7), or primary duodenal (#2) or occult gastrinomas (#1), and all underwent low mechanical index real-time CEUS with SonoVue injection.


Strong early enhancement in the arterial phase was observed in 15 cases (83%), and a rapid wash-out in the portal venous phase in 14 (78%). In the late venous phase, the lesions were hypoechoic in 12 cases (67%), isoechoic in five (28%), and hyperechoic in one (0.05%). The time of arterial enhancement correlated with the Ki-67 proliferative index (r(s)=0.516; p=0.028).


Most of the neuroendocrine liver metastases showed increased arterial enhancement at CEUS, a behaviour that is similar to that of hepatocellular carcinomas and the opposite of that of other metastases. CEUS can be a useful diagnostic means of characterising such metastases.

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