Liver Magnetic Resonance Elastography (MRE)
Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) is a painless, non-invasive medical imaging technique that helps determine the stiffness of organs and other structures in your body. This technique is most often used to assess your liver, where increased liver stiffness is associated with early liver disease (fibrosis). Identifying liver fibrosis early in development can help your doctors guide management for prevention to a more advanced, non-reversible stage of liver disease known as cirrhosis. MRE may be appropriate for patients wanting a more complete assessment of their liver tissue and for patients who are not able to receive a diagnostic result with ultrasound.
What is a Liver Elastography MRI?
Liver elastography is a specialized type of MRI which uses vibrations through your skin to create a visual representation of liver stiffness, also called an elastogram. This exam can help you and your doctor:
- Detect and assess how severe your liver disease may be
- Guide treatment decisions
- Monitor response to treatment
- Guide or replace a liver biopsy
- Help predict the risk of complications of liver disease, such as spleen enlargement, bleeding and fluid accumulation in the abdomen
For this procedure, you will be moved into the MRI machine feet first, on your back. If you are claustrophobic, please consult with your doctor to determine if anti-anxiety medication may help you prior to your exam. Prior to the exam, a round paddle will be attached to your upper abdomen, over your liver, which will pulsate during the procedure. The pulsation will not cause you pain.
Alberta Health Services does not cover private MRI services outside of the hospital. The cost of a liver elastography MRI is $800.
You will arrive 30 minutes prior to your examination to complete paperwork on your history and MRI safety screening. The MRE will take approximately 30 additional minutes to complete, with the entire visit taking approximately 1 hour. Throughout the examination, you will be able to communicate directly with the technologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
With proper adherence to MR safety guidelines, there are no risks associated with elastography MRI.
Results of a liver MR elastography study may be hindered in patients with acute hepatitis, abnormal iron concentration in the liver, large volume of ascites, and metal within the abdomen.
MRE has multiple benefits over ultrasound elastography including the ability to assess a larger portion of the entire liver, the ability to perform the study in patients with obesity and the ability to perform this study in patients with mild to moderate ascites. In patients with known liver iron deposition, a modified test can also be performed to differentiate fibrosis from liver iron concentration. MRI is frequently recommended when ultrasound elastography was unsuccessful.