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Grating-based phase-contrast CT (PCCT): histopathological correlation of human liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma specimen


Aims To correlate signal intensities in grating-based phase-contrast CT (PCCT) images obtained at a synchrotron light source and a conventional X-ray source with tissue components in human liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) specimen.

Methods Study approval was obtained by the institutional review board. Human specimen of liver cirrhosis and HCC were imaged at experimental grating-based PCCT setups using either a synchrotron radiation source or a conventional X-ray tube. Tissue samples were sectioned and processed for H&E and Elastica van Gieson staining. PCCT and histological images were manually correlated. Depending on morphology and staining characteristics tissue components like fibrosis, HCC, inflammation, connective tissue and necrosis were differentiated and visually correlated with signal intensity in PCCT images using a 5-point Likert scale with normal liver parenchyma as a reference.

Results Grating-based PCCT images of human cirrhotic liver and HCC specimen showed high soft-tissue contrast allowing correlation with histopathological sections. Signal intensities were similar in both setups independent of the nature of the radiation source. Connective tissue and areas of haemorrhage displayed the highest signal intensities, fibrotic liver tissue the lowest.

Conclusions Grating-based PCCT provides comparable results for the characterisation of human specimen of liver cirrhosis and HCC using either a synchrotron light source or a conventional X-ray tube. Due to its high soft-tissue contrast and its applicability to conventional X-ray tubes grating-based PCCT holds potential for preclinical research and virtual histology applications.

  • cancer
  • digital pathology
  • diagnosis

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