Objectives: Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) with three-dimensional spin-echo echo planar imaging (3D-SE-EPI) is a newly emerging noninvasive method for assessing liver fibrosis. We hypothesized that 3D-SE-EPI might have better diagnostic accuracy than conventional two-dimensional gradient-recalled echo (2D-GRE). METHODS: We prospectively included 179 consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) or C (CHC) who underwent both MRE and liver biopsy. Liver stiffness was measured by both 3D-SE-EPI and 2D-GRE for staging biopsy-proven liver fibrosis (using METAVIR scores). A receiver-operating characteristic analysis using the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC) was used to compare the diagnostic performance in predicting liver fibrosis between these two techniques, and compared them to serum markers of fibrosis. Results: The technical failure rate of 3D-SE-EPI (2.2%, n=4/179) was lower compared with 2D-GRE (8.3%, n=15/179). The stiffness measured by 3D-SE-EPI was slightly lower compared with 2D-GRE, with the mean difference of 0.57 kPa (Bland and Altman plot, 95% limits of agreement: -0.32 and 1.45 kPa). AUCs for the characterization of ≥F1, ≥F2, ≥F3, and F4 were 0.957 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.913-0.983), 0.971 (0.932-0.991), 0.991 (0.961-0.999), and 0.979 (0.942-0.995) for 3D-SE-EPI, which was slightly higher compared with the AUCs for 2D-GRE at each fibrosis stage (0.948 (0.901-0.977), 0.959 (0.915-0.981), 0.979 (0.943-0.995), and 0.976 (0.938-0.994), respectively), although none reached statistical significance (P=0.160-0.585). In an "intention-to-diagnose" analysis, the diagnostic accuracy (the proportion of well-classified patients) by EPI (86.7-91.3%, n=169) was higher compared with GRE (80.9-82.1%, n=158) after applying optimal cutoffs. Both 3D-SE-EPI and 2D-GRE performed better than serum fibrosis markers. Conclusions: With respect to 2D-GRE, 3D-SE-EPI has the advantage of lower failure rate with equivalent high diagnostic performance for staging liver fibrosis in CHB/CHC patients, and thus more helpful for those challenging cases in 2D-GRE.
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