MRI method may bump off some liver biopsies

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An emerging MRI technique has shown an ability to noninvasively ferret out a relatively common, often symptomless liver condition that clinically resembles drinking-induced liver disease and that typically requires biopsy for accurate diagnosis.

Like the alcohol-associated version, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)—an advanced form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which occurs in more than 60 percent of obese persons and around 20 percent of the non-obese—can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego used the imaging method, called MRI-PDFF for MRI-estimated proton-density-fat-fraction, to measure fat density in the livers of 35 patients with confirmed NASH diagnoses.

Janki Patel, MD, and colleagues compared the imaging results with paired liver histology data from the study cohort.

According to their study report, running in the September edition of Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, the team found that a relative reduction of 29 percent in liver fat on MRI-PDFF is associated with a histologic response in NASH.

In a news release sent by the school, senior author Rohit Loomba, MD, says MRI-PDFF “has the potential to be a cost-effective and convenient method for liver fat quantification. It requires only a single, 20-second breath hold and an estimated time of about five minutes in an MRI scanner.”

In their study abstract, the authors conclude that their results can be incorporated into designing future NASH clinical trials, “especially those utilizing change in hepatic fat quantified by MRI-PDFF, as a treatment endpoint.”