Which scan is best for the liver?

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Which scan is best for the liver?

Medical advancement has brought us multiple diagnostic modalities to create a clear and accurate picture of your liver and detect liver diseases. Your doctor may recommend a CT scan, Ultrasound, MRI, or PET scan to generate liver images. But, there is no broad consensus over which scan is best for the liver.


As technological advances continue to occur and contribute to the healthcare sector, the idea of the best scan continues to evolve. Each scan has its characteristics and advantages, and they are continuously reconfigured with the latest techniques to generate more precise diagnostic results.

According to studies, doctors opt for a CT scan over an ultrasound or MRI to detect hepatic metastasis, i.e., cancer spreading to the liver from other body parts. Likewise, survey records show that MRI gets more preference for examining the stage of primary liver cancer caused by hepatitis B or C infections.

It means doctors prescribe an imaging test for the liver, which they think is appropriate for an early diagnosis of the liver abnormality or disease, and corollary treatment. They do so by following your past and present pathological conditions.

Now, do you want to know which scan is best for the liver for assessing a particular disease? Do you want to know which scan your doctor is likely to recommend after examining your physical symptoms? Sit back and discover below.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 

Doctors use MRI scans to assess the blood flow to your liver, thereby tracing vascular diseases affecting the organ. Studies show that MRI is superior in diagnosing fatty liver diseases and liver cancers, as in 75% of the cases where this scan lay conducted, the results were highly accurate! Besides, an MRI can detect non-cancerous lesions in your liver and how far they progress.

Although an MRI is pretty expensive, if compared to other imaging tests, the doctor often prefers it over other scans like CT or X-Ray because of no radiation involvement. An MRI is also more accurate in picturizing your soft tissues than other scans. Hence, doctors consider it the best tool to locate the right area for a biopsy if and when required.

Moreover, MRI’s greater sensitivity to creating soft tissue images helps doctors diagnose certain liver diseases at their early stages. It can accurately detect liver cirrhosis, where your liver tissues get replaced by scar tissues, disrupting your liver from functioning. Hepatic fibrosis is another condition where doctors prefer using an advanced MRI technique to detect the fibroids even when they’re small.

Computed Tomography (CT)  

When it comes to the question of which scan is best for the liver for examining internal bleeding and injuries, a CT scan is the most common answer provided by medical experts. A CT scan is quick and easy and therefore, a great tool in emergencies. Perhaps, when an ultrasound or X-ray fails to come to a conclusion regarding your unexplained abdominal pain, a CT scan helps.

Doctors use a CT scan to distinguish between obstructive and non-obstructive jaundice. It performs an etiological diagnosis, revealing whether the obstacle in your liver causing jaundice is lithiasis or non-lithiasis. A CT scan can also detect liver abscesses, that is, the painful collection of pus in your liver due to some bacterial infections.

Although a CT scan is not as sensitive as an MRI to conduct quantification of liver steatosis, a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, advanced CT modalities show similar potential. For instance, a dual-energy CT that sheds light on the material properties of your liver tissues! No doubt, this technique stands essential for patients with metallic implants in their body who cannot pursue an MRI.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

In recent times, PET scans have become the one-of-a-kind dynamic modality to measure the rate of glucose transportation from your blood to the liver tissues. Doctors use it to assess and quantify the level of liver inflammation when you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Such an early screening via PET scan helps reduce the risk of developing liver cirrhosis.

A PET scan can serve in examining liver metastasis, which is a cancerous tumor growing in your liver by spreading from another cancerous tumor in the body. This modality can act superior to contrast-enhanced CT scans and MRI in staging such a malignant growth and its therapy assessment. A PET scan is also beneficial in detecting liver tumors that mimic malignancies.

Many medical experts regard PET scans as a powerful imagining modality to identify the origin tissue of liver cirrhosis. This scan can eliminate clinical challenges in determining whether liver ascites (fluid collections) are due to benign liver cirrhosis or malignant tumor growth. Your doctor may even use a PET scan to detect a cancer recurrence in your liver.

Ultrasound (USG)

Ultrasound, or a transabdominal ultrasound, is the preliminary test a doctor recommends for checking your liver. Your doctor may even ask for an ultrasound if your blood test report reveals the presence of high liver enzymes. An ultrasound can efficiently portray the signs of hepatitis, fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis, and liver fibrosis.

An Ultrasound can help doctors identify structural changes in your liver, such as fatty deposits, scarring or hardening of your liver, and additional masses or lesions. Based on such findings, doctors move forward to plan treatment or pursue another advanced diagnostic method that highlights the exact cause, stage, and location of the disease.

Doctors use liver ultrasound to detect pregnancy-related liver problems like cholestasis, a condition in which the bile flow from the liver gets blocked or reduced. Ultrasound can also help diagnose alcohol-related liver injuries and haemangioma, i.e., the blood vessels lumping in your liver. Yes, an ultrasound is a viable answer to the question of which scan is best for the liver at the primary level.

Bottom Line:

As you can already understand by now, MRI, PET scans, CT scans, and Ultrasound are all effective methods to see your liver condition. Undoubtedly, your doctor is the best person to decide which scan is best for the liver among these for your definite problem, and you must such expert help whenever you experience problematic symptoms.

If you want to know more about liver scans, feel free to leave your questions at [email protected].

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Hi, I am Alka Tiwari, Founder & Patient Care Executive at MRIChandigarh.com. Helping you get the diagnostics scans services like MRI, CT Scan, UltraSound & PET Scan, etc at the best price. At MRIChandigarh's blog, I will be writing to create awareness and to educate you about how and where to get diagnostic scans done in Chandigarh at the best price with best-in-class services.
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