BACKGROUND: A few authors have reported the value of multidetector row CT (MDCT) for evaluating the longitudinal extent of cholangiocarcinoma. They have not focused on CT attenuation of a tumor and actual tumor extent along the bile ducts. We designed the present study to analyze attenuation. METHODS: Between January 2003 and July 2005, 113 consecutive patients with cholangiocarcinoma underwent a surgical resection following MDCT. Of these MDCT studies, 73 (perihilar cholangiocarcinoma, n = 62; middle and distal cholangiocarcinoma, n = 11) were suitable for analysis, and the patients were enrolled in the study. Patients were divided according to tumor hypoattenuation and hyperattenuation on MDCT. Histologic differentiation, desmoplastic reaction, and vascular density were microscopically compared with the tumor attenuation to differentiate the characteristics of the attenuation. The extent of cancer along the bile duct diagnosed by MDCT was compared with the actual extent determined by the microscopic findings. RESULTS: Hyperattenuated tumor was observed in 40 patients. There was no difference in histologic differentiation, desmoplastic reaction, or vascular density between the hyperattenuated and hypoattenuated cholangiocarcinomas. Neither the proximal nor the distal borders between the normal and thickened bile duct wall could be determined in the 33 patients with hypoattenuated tumor; in contrast, an accurate assessment of extent of tumor was obtained in 76% of the proximal borders and 82% of the distal borders in the 40 patients with hyperattenuated tumor. CONCLUSIONS: Although the cause of the difference between the hyperattenuated and hypoattenuated cholangiocarcinoma still is unclear, MDCT can be an alternative to direct cholangiography in selected patients with hyperattenuated cholangiocarcinoma.
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