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New Imaging Identifies Types of Liver Disease

Called magnetic resonance elastography, it could eliminate need for biopsies, study finds

SATURDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A new imaging technology called magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is highly accurate in identifying liver diseases and can help eliminate the need for liver biopsies, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

MRE, which was developed at the Mayo Clinic, produces color-coded images (elastograms) that indicate how internal organs, muscles and tissues would feel to the touch. Purple is the softest, and red is the stiffest.

"Knowing the liver's elasticity or stiffness is invaluable in diagnosing liver disease. A healthy liver is very soft, while a liver with early disease begins to stiffen. A liver with cirrhosis, advanced liver disease, can be rock hard," study co-author and hepatologist Dr. Jayant Talwalkar said in a Mayo news release.

In this study, the researchers used MRE to check 113 patients, aged 19 to 78, who had a wide variety of liver diseases and had undergone a liver biopsy within the previous year.

"Results showed that elastography was highly accurate in detecting moderate-to-severe hepatic fibrosis even with the variety in age, types of liver disease, and body size," Talwalkar said.

Fibrosis is a common condition that, if not treated in time, can lead to incurable cirrhosis.

The study found that MRE was 88 percent accurate in detecting cirrhosis and 97 percent accurate in identifying nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with no significant inflammation or fibrosis.

"Using MRE, we can confidently avoid liver biopsies for patients with no evidence of advanced fibrosis, as well as for patients with cirrhosis," Talwalkar said.

The study was expected to be presented Monday at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases annual meeting, in San Francisco.

More information

The American Liver Foundation has more about liver disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Nov. 1, 2008

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