May 23, 2007 – Two recent Mayo Clinic studies found that magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), a new imaging technique invented at Mayo Clinic, is an accurate tool for non-invasive diagnosis of liver diseases. The findings were presented this week at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine Annual Meeting in Berlin, Germany, and Digestive Disease Week 2007 in Washington, D.C.
Richard Ehman, M.D., lead researcher on the MRE project, and his imaging research team collaborated with Mayo Clinic gastroenterologists to study whether MRE could provide reliable and accurate diagnoses in patients with varying degrees of liver disease. MRE, which uses a modified form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to accurately measure the hardness or elasticity of the liver, applies vibrations to the liver and obtains pictures of the mechanical waves passing through the organ. The wave pictures are then processed to generate a quantitative image of tissue stiffness.
In one study conducted on 57 individuals with chronic liver disease and 20 healthy volunteers, researchers found that MRE accurately detects fibrosis with high sensitivity and specificity, and did not interfere with detection of fibrosis with MRE.
"Based on this research, we are now using MRE examinations in select patients to determine liver stiffness and assess the need for liver biopsies," says Jayant Talwalkar, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and an investigator on the MRE studies.
A second study on MRE examinations of liver and spleen stiffness found a correlation between liver and spleen stiffness in patients with portal hypertension. However, the validity of spleen stiffness as a noninvasive measure of portal venous pressure requires further study.
Dr. Ehman and his team is exploring the use of MRE in detecting breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.