Associations of Ultrasound LI-RADS Visualization Score With Examination, Sonographer, and Radiologist Factors: Retrospective Assessment in Over 10,000 Examinations

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BACKGROUND. When performing ultrasound (US) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) screening, numerous factors may impair hepatic visualization, potentially lowering sensitivity. US LI-RADS includes a visualization score as a technical adequacy measure. OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this article is to identify associations between examination, sonographer, and radiologist factors and the visualization score in liver US HCC screening. METHODS. This retrospective study included 6598 patients (3979 men, 2619 women; mean age, 58 years) at risk for HCC who underwent a total of 10,589 liver US examinations performed by 91 sonographers and interpreted by 50 radiologists. Visualization scores (A, no or minimal limitations; B, moderate limitations; C, severe limitations) were extracted from clinical reports. Patient location (emergency department [ED], in-patient, outpatient), sonographer and radiologist liver US volumes during the study period (< 50, 50-500, > 500 examinations), and radiologist practice pattern (US, abdominal, community, interventional) were recorded. Associations with visualization scores were explored. RESULTS. Frequencies of visualization scores were 71.5%, 24.2%, and 4.2% for A, B, and C, respectively. Scores varied significantly (p < .001) between examinations performed in ED patients (49.8%, 40.1%, and 10.2%), inpatients (58.8%, 33.9%, and 7.3%), and outpatients (76.7%, 20.3%, and 2.9%). Scores also varied significantly (p < .001) by sonographer volume (< 50 examinations: 58.4%, 33.7%, and 7.9%; > 500 examinations: 72.9%, 22.5%, and 4.6%); reader volume (< 50 examinations: 62.9%, 29.9%, and 7.1%; > 500 examinations: 67.3%, 28.0%, and 4.7%); and reader practice pattern (US: 74.5%, 21.3%, and 4.3%; abdominal: 67.0%, 28.1%, and 4.8%; community: 75.2%, 21.9%, and 2.9%; interventional: 68.5%, 24.1%, and 7.4%). In multivariable analysis, independent predictors of score C were patient location (ED/inpatient: odds ratio [OR], 2.62; p < .001) and sonographer volume (< 50: OR, 1.55; p = .01). Among sonographers performing 50 or more examinations, the percentage of outpatient examinations with score C ranged from 0.8% to 5.4%; 9/33 were above the upper 95% CI of 3.2%. CONCLUSION. The US LI-RADS visualization score may identify factors affecting quality of HCC screening examinations and identify outlier sonographers in terms of poor examination quality. The approach also highlights potential systematic biases among radiologists in their quality assessment process. CLINICAL IMPACT. These findings may be applied to guide targeted quality improvement efforts and establish best practices and performance standards for screening programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1020
Number of pages11
JournalAJR. American journal of roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • HCC
  • quality
  • screening
  • ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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