Review Article

Preoperative imaging for hepatic resection of colorectal cancer metastasis

Timothy L. Frankel, Richard Kinh Gian Do, William R. Jarnagin


Despite recent advances in chemotherapeutic agents, the prognosis for metastatic colon cancer remains poor. Over the past two decades, hepatic metastasectomy has emerged as a promising technique for improving survival in patients with metastatic colon cancer and in some cases providing long-term cure. To maximize safety and efficacy of metastasectomy, appropriate pre-operative imaging is needed. Advancements in computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) have led to improved detection of occult lesions and better definition of surgical anatomy. While CT, PET and MRI have a comparable sensitivity for detection of large liver metastases, MRI excels at detection of subcentimeter liver metastases compared to CT and FDG-PET, especially with the combination of diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) and hepatocyte-specific contrast agents. CT may be useful as a screening modality or in preoperative planning such as volumetric estimation of the remnant liver size or in defining preoperative arterial anatomy for hepatic artery infusion pump placement. While technologic advancements have led to unprecedented image quality and clarity, this does not replace the need for a dedicated, competent radiologist with experience in hepatic imaging.

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