To prospectively evaluate the role of real-time ultrasonography (US)-computed tomography (CT) fusion imaging (US-CT) in comparison with US seeing separate CT images (US + CT) and multidetector-row CT (MDCT) for the correct staging of hepatic metastatic involvement in patients with colorectal cancer.
Sixty-four patients with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer and who were referred for abdominopelvic staging before primary tumor resection underwent same-day MDCT, US + CT, and US-CT. Examinations were evaluated on-site by 2 investigators in consensus. Investigators recorded the size and location of detected lesions on segmental liver maps, classified them as being benign, malignant, or indeterminate, and finally assessed the M stage of the liver as being M0, M1, or Mx (indeterminate). All patients underwent surgical exploration including intraoperative US. Reference standard diagnosis was based on findings at surgery, intraoperative US, histopathology, and MDCT follow-up imaging. Differences among investigated modalities were analyzed using McNemar′s test.
The reference standard verified 109 (45 ≤ 1 cm) hepatic lesions in 25 patients, including 65 (25 ≤ 1 cm) metastases in 16 patients (M1). Regarding the 45 ≤ 1 cm liver lesions, rates for detection were significantly higher (P < 0.05) for MDCT (80%, 36/45) and US-CT (77.8%, 35/45) than for US + CT (64.4%, 29/45); the rate for correct classification by US-CT (71.1%, 32/45) was significantly higher than for US + CT (48.9%, 22/45) and MDCT (31.1%, 14/45) (all P < 0.05). On patient-based analysis, specificity of MDCT (85.4%, 41/48) was significantly lower (P < 0.05) than for US-CT (97.9%, 47/48) and US + CT (93.7%, 45/48); the positive predictive value of MDCT (63.1%, 12/19) was not significantly different (P = 0.27) compared with US + CT (82.3%, 14/17) but significantly lower (P < 0.05) than for US-CT (93.7%, 15/16). In 13 patients (59 lesions) with only benign (stage M0) or coexistent benign and malignant lesions (stage M1), indeterminate lesion ratings and indeterminate liver stagings (Mx) occurred both significantly lower (P < 0.05) with US-CT (3.4%, 2/59; and 0%, 0/13) than with US + CT (11.9%, 7/59; and 23.1%, 3/13) or with MDCT (30.5%, 18/59; and 53.8%, 7/13).
Based on these initial diagnostic experiences, complementary US-CT fusion imaging of small CT-indeterminate liver lesions may have value in staging patients with colorectal cancer, focusing on patients who were likely to harbor only benign or coexisting benign and malignant liver lesions and in whom change of M staging would change the clinical management.