UW Radiology

Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound

Contrast enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is an imaging technique approved in the U.S. for the detection and characterization of liver masses since spring 2016; it uses intravenous microscopic gas bubbles (microbubbles) at the size of red blood cells to improve the assessment of ultrasound of liver masses.

In contrast to iodine contrast agents for CT, or gadolinium contrast for MR, ultrasound microbubbles are unique in that they have virtually no risk for allergic reactions and also do not have the potential to cause kidney damage. This is due to the fact that the contrast agent is not excreted by the kidneys but by the lungs. Microbubbles are therefore ideal in patients with allergies to other contrast agents, kidney problems or when avoidance of radiation by CT or exposure to magnetic fields in MR is a priority. In addition CEUS offers additional information and advantages to CT or MR such as real time imaging with the highest temporal and spatial resolution, high portability at bedside and in the interventional suite.

At our institution, we use microbubbles in ultrasound on a routine basis for the characterization of liver masses as well as for guidance of procedures such as biopsies and tumor ablation. We also use microbubbles in research studies in other organs like kidneys and ovaries.