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Curr Urol Rep. 2011 Feb;12(1):11-7. doi: 10.1007/s11934-010-0148-y.

Contemporary imaging of the renal mass.

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Department of Radiology, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.


Renal masses increasingly are detected incidentally in asymptomatic individuals. Accurate characterization of these lesions is important for clinical management, planning intervention, and avoiding unnecessary procedures. Ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are the mainstays of renal mass detection and characterization. Ultrasonography is useful for distinguishing cystic from solid lesions and can detect lesion vascularity, especially with use of ultrasound contrast agents, but is less sensitive, less specific, and less reproducible than CT and MRI. CT, with and without intravenous contrast, is the primary imaging test for characterization and staging of renal lesions, and is utilized more often than MRI. Current multidetector CT technology provides near isotropic acquisition, with three-dimensional reformatting capabilities. Due to lack of exposure to iodinated contrast and ionizing radiation and superior soft tissue contrast, MRI is being increasingly utilized as a problem-solving tool for diagnosis, staging, and preoperative planning for renal malignancies. Future directions for imaging of primary renal neoplasm include accurate characterization of renal cell cancer subtype, assistance with treatment planning, and evaluation of treatment response.

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