MR Contrast Agents: Applications in Hepatobiliary Imaging

Tan Cher, MD; Janio Szklaruk, MD, PhD


Appl Radiol. 2010;39(11):26-41. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Liver imaging has improved with advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. With the advent of newer sequences and higher magnetic fields, which allow for greater temporal and spatial resolution, dynamic contrast-enhanced (CE) imaging of the liver now plays a dominant role in lesion characterization.

There has been much discussion about the use of CE MRI of liver masses.[1,2] In this article, we briefly discuss the various MR contrast agents used in liver imaging, including classification, dose and mechanism of action, and side effects. We also discuss recent advancements in imaging features of focal liver lesions.

MR contrast agents have been classified based on their chemical properties, mechanism of action and their biological distribution. They can be divided into gadolinium-based chelated agents (GBCA) and non-GBCA. The non-GBCAs include reticuloendothelial (RE) agents and hepatobiliary (HPB) agents. The GBCAs and HPB agents are paramagnetic, while the RE agents are super-paramagnetic. Based on the biological distribution, GBCAs behave similar to iodinated contrast used in computed tomography (CT), by distributing into the extracellular compartment. The RE agents are accumulated in the reticuloendothelial system (i.e., Kupffer cells in the liver). The HPB agents are accumulated in the hepatocytes and excreted in bile.


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