BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to assess the accuracy of double-contrast magnetic resonance (MR) imaging for the treatment response evaluation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in cirrhotic liver after transarterial chemoembolization (TACE). METHODS: Twenty-two patients with 30 HCC nodules treated by TACE underwent double-contrast MR imaging 1 month after treatment. MR images were obtained before and after the sequential administration of superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) and gadopentetate dimeglumine contrast agent within the same imaging session. Two observers retrospectively assessed all treated nodules for evidence of residual viable tumor after TACE. The diagnostic performance of gadolinium-enhanced, SPIO-enhanced, and double-contrast enhanced images was calculated. Histopathological and angiographical findings served as standard of reference. Receiver operating characteristic curves and areas under the curves (A (z)) were calculated. RESULTS: Double-contrast technique (A (z) = 0.95) was significantly (p = 0.036) more accurate than SPIO-enhanced technique (A (z) = 0.92) and gadolinium-enhanced technique (p = 0.005) (A (z) = 0.81) in viable tumor detection after TACE. Double-contrast technique was significantly more sensitive (92%) than SPIO-enhanced technique (80%) and gadolinium-enhanced technique (68%). Kappa values for interobserver agreement ranged from 0.67 to 0.87 and were significantly different from zero (all p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Compared to gadolinium-enhanced and SPIO-enhanced techniques, double-contrast technique significantly improves the detection of viable tumor in HCC after TACE.