Imaging patterns and focal lesions in fatty liver: a pictorial review

Sudhakar K Venkatesh, Tiffany Hennedige, Geoffrey B. Johnson, David M. Hough, Joel Garland Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common cause of chronic liver disease and affects nearly one-third of US population. With the increasing trend of obesity in the population, associated fatty change in the liver will be a common feature observed in imaging studies. Fatty liver causes changes in liver parenchyma appearance on imaging modalities including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and may affect the imaging characteristics of focal liver lesions (FLLs). The imaging characteristics of FLLs were classically described in a non-fatty liver. In addition, focal fatty change and focal fat sparing may also simulate FLLs. Knowledge of characteristic patterns of fatty change in the liver (diffuse, geographical, focal, subcapsular, and perivascular) and their impact on the detection and characterization of FLL is therefore important. In general, fatty change may improve detection of FLLs on MRI using fat suppression sequences, but may reduce sensitivity on a single-phase (portal venous) CT and conventional ultrasound. In patients with fatty liver, MRI is generally superior to ultrasound and CT for detection and characterization of FLL. In this pictorial essay, we describe the imaging patterns of fatty change in the liver and its effect on detection and characterization of FLLs on ultrasound, CT, MRI, and PET.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalAbdominal Radiology
StateAccepted/In press - Dec 20 2016


  • CT
  • Fatty liver
  • Focal liver lesions
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • MRI
  • PET
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Gastroenterology
  • Urology
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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