Keck Medicine of USC physicians have been awarded funding to explore the effectiveness of new non-invasive ultrasound-based techniques to screen liver transplant patients for potentially deadly disease.

This is one of the several investigator-initiated research grants secured recently by the Department of Radiology.

Edward Grant, MD, chair of the Department of Radiology, and Hisham Tchelepi, MD, chief of the ultrasound division, have received $300,000 from GE Healthcare Inc. to investigate non-invasive and quantitative ultrasound-based techniques — shear wave elastography and parametric imaging with contrast enhanced ultrasound — for assessment of liver fibrosis in liver transplant recipients with hepatitis C, which can continue to cause damage even after a patient receives a new liver.

The Department of Radiology is the first in the region to introduce these ultrasound technologies. “This adds to our spectrum of diagnostic imaging services in ultrasound,” Grant said.

New shear wave elastography technology developed by GE Healthcare received approval from the FDA in November and measures organ tissue stiffness to help identify any potential underlying fibrosis. Liver fibrosis is associated with cirrhosis and is currently assessed using needle biopsy, which is invasive and expensive.
Parametric imaging using contrast-enhanced ultrasound helps map blood flow and is another new diagnostic aid to examine the liver.

The new non-invasive techniques could allow patients to be better screened and evaluated so they can more quickly receive appropriate treatment. The three-year grant will allow 100 patients to be screened and treated.

“We will use these two new tools for evaluating patients and providing them, ultimately, with better treatment,” Grant said.

Grant was one of the pioneers in developing the clinical use of neonatal cranial sonography. Considered an international authority in ultrasound, Grant has been the chairman of the Department of Radiology since 2002.  Tchelepi was recently recruited from Wake Forrest to lead radiology’s ultrasound division. Grant and Tchelepi often speak about ultrasound at national and international venues.

— Douglas Morino