Mechanisms of action of liver contrast agents: impact for clinical use.
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New contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging are continually being developed by pharmaceutical companies in order to better image the liver. These agents can be divided into hepatobiliary agents directed to the hepatocytes and nanoparticulate agents directed to the reticulo-endothelial system. After intravenous injection, all these agents concentrate in the liver and induce profound changes in signal intensity. Particulate agents induce predominantly a darkening of the liver parenchyma, while hepatobiliary agents induce a brightening. In both cases, liver-lesion conspicuity is enhanced, leading to a better visualization of the lesion. After a brief description of the principal characteristics of the agents, this paper will attempt to summarize the utility of these agents for the detection and characterization of focal liver disease.
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