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Radiology. 2010 Oct;257(1):24-39. doi: 10.1148/radiol.10091210.

Microbubble-enhanced US in body imaging: what role?

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Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Foothills Medical Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.


Contrast agents for ultrasonography (US) comprise microscopic bubbles of gas in an encapsulating shell. They are unique in that they interact with the imaging process, oscillating in response to a low-intensity ultrasound field and disrupting in response to a high-intensity field. New contrast-specific imaging modes allow US to show exquisite vascularity and tissue perfusion in real time and with excellent spatial resolution. In Europe, Asia, and Canada, to name only the most obvious, characterization of focal liver masses is the first and best established use of contrast-enhanced (CE) US, allowing for the noninvasive diagnosis of commonly encountered liver masses with comparable accuracy to that of computed tomography and magnetic resonance studies. CE US is a preferred modality for the difficult task of diagnosis of liver nodules detected on surveillance scans in those at risk for hepatocellular carcinoma. Newer body applications include the guidance of ablative intervention, monitoring activity of bowel inflammation in Crohn disease, characterization of kidney masses, especially cystic renal cell carcinoma, diagnosis of prostate cancer, and monitoring the response of tumors to antivascular drug therapies. Microbubble contrast agents are easy to use and robust; their use poses no risk of nephrotoxicity and requires no ionizing radiation. CE US plays a vital and expanding role that improves management and patient care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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