Indexed on: 03 Oct '20Published on: 02 Oct '20Published in: Cancers
The increasing prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in the general population prompts for a quick response from physicians. As NAFLD can progress to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), new non-invasive, rapid, cost-effective diagnostic methods are needed. In this review, we explore the diagnostic performance of ultrasound elastography for non-invasive assessment of NAFLD and NAFLD-related HCC. Elastography provides a new dimension to the conventional ultrasound examination, by adding the liver stiffness quantification in the diagnostic algorithm. Whilst the most efficient elastographic techniques in staging liver fibrosis in NAFLD are vibration controlled transient elastography (VCTE) and 2D-Shear wave elastography (2D-SWE), VCTE presents the upside of assessing steatosis through the controlled attenuation parameter (CAP). Hereby, we have also critically reviewed the most important elastographic techniques for the quantitative characterization of focal liver lesions (FLLs), focusing on HCC: Point shear wave elastography (pSWE) and 2D-SWE. As our paper shows, elastography should not be considered as a substitute for FLL biopsy because of the stiffness values overlap. Furthermore, by using non-invasive, disease-specific surveillance tools, such as US elastography, a subset of the non-cirrhotic NAFLD patients at risk for developing HCC can be detected early, leading to a better outcome. A recent ultrasomics study exemplified the wide potential of 2D-SWE to differentiate benign FLLs from malignant ones, guiding the clinician towards the next steps of diagnosis and contributing to better long-term disease surveillance.