Imaging Features in the Liver after Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy

Patrick J. Navin, Michael C. Olson, Mishal Mendiratta-Lala, Christopher L. Hallemeier, Michael S. Torbenson, Sudhakar K. Venkatesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historically, radiation therapy was not considered in treatment of liver tumors owing to the risk of radiation-induced liver disease. However, development of highly conformed radiation treatments such as stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) has increased use of radiation therapy in the liver. SBRT is indicated in treatment of primary and metastatic liver tumors with outcomes comparable to those of other local therapies, especially in treatment of hepatocellular carci-noma. After SBRT, imaging features of the tumor and surrounding background hepatic parenchyma demonstrate a predictable pattern immediately after treatment and during follow-up. The goals of SBRT are to deliver a lethal radiation dose to the targeted liver tumor and to minimize radiation dose to normal liver parenchyma and other adjacent organs. Evaluation of tumor response after SBRT centers on changes in size and enhancement; however, these changes are often delayed secondary to the underlying physiologic effects of radiation. Knowledge of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms of SBRT should allow better understanding of the typical imaging features in detection of tumor response and avoid misinterpretation from common pitfalls and atypical imaging findings. Imaging features of radia-tion-induced change in the surrounding liver parenchyma are charac-terized by a focal liver reaction that can potentially be mistaken for no response or recurrence of tumor. Knowledge of the pattern and chro-nology of this phenomenon may allay any uncertainty in assessment of tumor response. Other pitfalls related to fiducial marker placement or combination therapies are important to recognize. The authors review the basic principles of SBRT and illustrate post-SBRT imaging features of treated liver tumors and adjacent liver parenchyma with a focus on avoiding pitfalls in imaging evaluation of response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2131-2148
Number of pages18
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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