Detailed MRI scans could help improve the recovery of patients with liver cancer, researchers believe.

A €1.3 million initiative in the UK is to study the use of advanced imaging technology in assessing possible risks to patients before surgery.

Doctors typically remove the section of the liver that is affected by cancer and leave the remainder of the organ intact which needs to function well enough for the patient to survive.

A University of Edinburgh and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation project, called HepaT1ca, is working with Perspectum Diagnostics, which has developed the technology called LiverMultiScan.

It is said the system can safely and accurately identify poor liver health caused by excessive fat, inflammation, scar tissue or high iron content.

Previous research into surgical complications has identified poor liver health, caused by pre-existing chronic liver disease, as a key contributor to post-operation liver failure.

We believe that these techniques can measure liver health prior to surgery

Lead researcher Damian Mole, who is based at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We believe that these techniques can measure liver health prior to surgery and therefore contribute to a more accurate assessment of surgical risk."

"Ultimately, we hope this enabling technology will significantly improve the safety of patients who undergo surgery."

Surgery is thought to be the most effective treatment for liver tumours with around 1,600 operations performed in the UK each year.

Myrddin Rees, of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The opportunity to extend surgery to more patients with primary and secondary tumours is thwarted by our inability to accurately quantify the function of the remaining liver."

"This is an exciting opportunity to fill this gap in our knowledge."

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