Diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) of hepatocellular carcinoma: correlation with microvascular invasion and histologic grade

Likun Cao, Jie Chen, Ting Duan, Min Wang, Hanyu Jiang, Yi Wei, Chunchao Xia, Xiaoyue Zhou, Xu Yan, Bin Song


Background: The aim of this study was to prospectively evaluate the diagnostic efficacy of diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) in predicting microvascular invasion (MVI) and histologic grade of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with comparison to the conventional diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI).
Methods: This prospective study was approved by the Institutional Review Board, and written informed consent was obtained from all patients. From September 2015 to January 2017, 74 consecutive HCC patients were enrolled in this study. Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging including DKI protocol was performed, and patients were followed up for at least one year after surgery. Diffusion parameters including the mean corrected apparent diffusion coefficient (MD), mean apparent kurtosis coefficient (MK), and apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) were calculated. Differences of diffusion parameters among different histopathological groups were compared. For parameters that were significantly different between pathological groups, receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve analyses were performed to evaluate the diagnostic efficiency for identifying MVI and predicting high-grade HCC. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate the relative value of clinical and laboratory variables and diffusion parameters as risk factors for early recurrence (≤1 year).
Results: Among all the studied diffusion parameters, only MK differed significantly between the MVI-positive and MVI-negative group (0.91±0.10 vs. 0.82±0.09, P<0.001), and showed moderate diagnostic efficacy (AUC =0.77) for identifying MVI. High-grade HCCs showed significantly higher MK values (0.93±0.10 vs. 0.82±0.09, P<0.001), along with MD (1.34±0.18 vs. 1.54±0.22, P<0.001) and ADC values (1.17±0.15 vs. 1.30±0.16, P=0.001) than low-grade HCCs. For differentiating high-grade from low-grade HCCs, MK demonstrated a higher area under the ROC curve (AUC) and significantly higher specificity than MD and ADC (AUC =0.81 vs. 0.76 and 0.74; specificity =82.2% vs. 60.0% and 60.0%, P=0.02). In addition, higher MK (OR =5.700, P=0.002) and Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) stage C (OR =6.329, P=0.005) were independent risk factors for early HCC recurrence.
Conclusions: DKI-derived MK values outperformed conventional ADC values for predicting MVI and histologic grade of HCC, and are associated with increased risk of early tumor recurrence.