Published December 2016

Non-invasive magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) can be used reliably to measure liver stiffness, according to a study led by experts at Cincinnati Children’s.

This relatively new technique offers a way to detect early signs of chronic liver disease while relying less upon surgical liver biopsies and their inherent risks.

“Ours was the first study to comprehensively look at the repeatability and reproducibility of MR elastography, which is gaining increasing traction as a means of non-invasive assessment of liver disease,” says the study’s main author, Andrew Trout, MD, director of clinical research in the Department of Radiology.

Trout and colleagues studied the reliability of MRE with the consent of 24 adult volunteers. The project involved four MR imaging systems from two manufacturers evaluated across various field strengths and pulse sequences. The team found the technique to be both reliable and repeatable.

“As we increasingly use MRE to guide, or in place of biopsy, understanding the stability of the results of MRE elastography is critical to defining what reflects a real change in liver stiffness and what is within the range of noise,” Trout says.

Liver stiffness reflects underlying liver disease, particularly fibrosis, which can be reversible at early stages. Early detection of changes in liver stiffness can therefore be key to diagnosing and managing chronic liver diseases.