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NICE approves SonoVue for liver cancer diagnosis

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NICE has recommended using SonoVue with ultrasound as a means of diagnosing liver cancer.

Its guidance supports the use of the substance in adults to investigate damage to the liver that is detected, but not determined, on an unenhanced ultrasound scan as it can give a clearer image of an abnormal-looking area.

NICE also recommends its use to investigate potential liver cancer that has spread from other cancers in the body, and investigate liver damage in adults with cirrhosis where ultrasound scans have proved inconclusive, and if contrast-enhanced CT and contrast-enhanced MRI scans cannot be used.

SonoVue will help to make a quick diagnosis and initiate prompt treatment in patients who have cancer and minimise the anxiety of waiting for test results in those who do not. It is estimated that as many as 70-75% of liver lesions assessed in the NHS could be benign.

Professor Carole Longson, health technology evaluation centre director at NICE, said: “Ultrasound scanning, along with other imaging technologies such as CT and MRI, are important in diagnosing and planning treatment for many patients with liver disease.

“One drawback with unenhanced liver imaging is that it sometimes identifies damage to the liver which cannot be characterised initially and another test may therefore be needed to fully explain the abnormality. One important potential benefit of SonoVue is that it can be carried out at the same appointment as the initial scan, thereby minimising any delay to diagnosis and subsequent treatment, with associated reduction in anxiety for patients and their families.”

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