Objectives: To prospectively assess the role of the US attenuation imaging coefficient (AC) for the diagnosis and quantification of hepatic steatosis.
Methods: One hundred and one patients underwent liver biopsy and US-AC measurement on the same day. Liver steatosis was graded according to biopsy as absent (S0 < 5%), mild (S1 5-33%), moderate (S2 33-66%), or severe (S3 > 66%); liver fibrosis was graded from F0 to F4. The correlation between AC and steatosis on pathology (%) was calculated using the Pearson correlation coefficient. The Student t or Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare continuous variables and ROC curve analysis was used to assess diagnostic performance of AC in diagnosing steatosis.
Results: Overall, 43 (42%), 35 (35%), 12 (12%), and 11 (11%) patients were classified as S0, S1, S2, and S3, respectively. The AC was positively correlated with steatosis as a continuous variable (%) on pathology (r = 0.58, p < 0.01). Patients with steatosis of any grade had a higher AC than those without steatosis (mean 0.77 ± 0.13 vs. 0.63 ± 0.09 dB/cm/MHz, respectively; p < 0.01, AUROC = 0.805). Patients with S2-S3 had a higher AC than patients with S0-1 (0.85 ± 0.11 vs. 0.67 ± 0.11 dB/cm/MHz, respectively; p < 0.01, AUROC = 0.892). AC > 0.69 dB/cm/MHz had a sensitivity and specificity of 76% and 86%, respectively, for diagnosing any grade of steatosis (S1-S3), and AC > 0.72 dB/cm/MHz had a sensitivity and specificity of 96% and 74%, respectively, for diagnosing S2-S3. The presence of advanced fibrosis (F3-F4) did not affect the calculated AC.
Conclusions: The attenuation imaging coefficient is a promising quantitative technique for the non-invasive diagnosis and quantification of hepatic steatosis.
Key points: • Measurement of the attenuation coefficient is achieved with a very high rate of technical success. • We found a significant positive correlation between the attenuation coefficient and the grade of steatosis on pathology. • The attenuation imaging coefficient is a promising quantitative technique for the noninvasive diagnosis and quantification of hepatic steatosis.