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New Mayo Clinic MRI technology enables noninvasive liver diagnoses

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Two recent Mayo Clinic studies have found that magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), a new imaging technique invented at Mayo Clinic, is an accurate tool for non-invasive diagnosis of liver diseases. The findings will be presented this week at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine Annual Meeting in Berlin, Germany, and Digestive Disease Week 2007 in Washington, D.C.

The liver responds to many diseases that damage its cells by developing scar tissue or fibrosis. MRE uses a modified form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to accurately measure the hardness or elasticity of the liver. By applying vibrations to the liver, MRE obtains pictures of the mechanical waves passing through the organ. The wave pictures are then processed to generate a quantitative image of tissue stiffness.

"Healthy liver tissue is very soft, while a liver with fibrosis is firmer, and a liver with cirrhosis is almost rock-hard," says Richard Ehman, M.D., lead researcher on the MRE project. "If detected early, fibrosis of the liver can be treated, but once the disease has progressed to cirrhosis, the condition is irreversible."

Dr. Ehman and his imaging research team collaborated with Mayo Clinic gastroenterologists to study whether MRE could provide reliable and accurate diagnoses in patients with varying degrees of liver disease.

One study involved MRE examinations of 57 individuals with chronic liver disease and 20 healthy volunteers. The researchers confirmed that MRE accurately detects fibrosis with high sensitivity and specificity. Researchers also found that steatosis, which is deposits of fatty acids and triglycerides in liver cells and a common condition in patients with liver disease, did not interfere with detection of fibrosis with MRE.

"Based on this research, we are now using MRE examinations in select patients to determine liver stiffness and assess the need for liver biopsies," sa
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Contact: Elizabeth Rice
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
22-May-2007


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