PURPOSE: To (a) study the optimal timing and dosing for ultrasmall superparamagnetic iron oxide particle (USPIO)-enhanced magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the liver in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, (b) evaluate whether hepatic USPIO uptake is decreased in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and (c) study the diagnostic accuracy of USPIO-enhanced MR imaging to distinguish between NASH and simple steatosis.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This prospective study was approved by the local institutional review board, and informed consent was obtained from all patients. Quantitative R2* MR imaging of the liver was performed at baseline and 72 hours after USPIO administration in patients with biopsy-proven NASH (n = 13), hepatic steatosis without NASH (n = 11), and healthy control subjects (n = 9). The hepatic USPIO uptake in the liver was quantified by the difference in R2* (ΔR2*) between the contrast material-enhanced images and baseline images. Between-group differences in mean ΔR2* were tested with the Student t test, and diagnostic accuracy was tested by calculating the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve.
RESULTS: Patients with NASH had a significantly lower ΔR2* 72 hours after USPIO administration when compared with patients who had simple steatosis and healthy control subjects (mean ± standard deviation for patients with NASH, 37.0 sec(-1) ± 16.1; patients with simple steatosis, 61.0 sec(-1) ± 17.3; and healthy control subjects, 72.2 sec(-1) ± 22.0; P = .006 for NASH vs simple steatosis; P < .001 for NASH vs healthy control subjects). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve to distinguish NASH from simple steatosis was 0.87 (95% confidence interval: 0.72, 1.00).
CONCLUSION: This proof-of-concept study provides clues that hepatic USPIO uptake in patients with NASH is decreased and that USPIO MR imaging can be used to differentiate NASH from simple steatosis.