Contrast-enhanced computed tomography and ultrasound-guided liver biopsy to diagnose dysplastic liver nodules in cirrhosis

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Background: Dysplastic nodules in cirrhosis herald a very high risk of transition to hepatocellular carcinoma. A better understanding of the relationships between dysplastic nodules and hepatocellular carcinoma development may help refining strategies of enhanced follow-up. Methods: All consecutive cirrhotics with a histologically proven de novo dysplastic nodule, were retrospectively identified and underwent alternating abdominal ultrasound and contrast-computed tomography every 3 months. An ultrasound-guided liver biopsy was the diagnostic gold standard, whereas surveillance and recall policies were according to current guidelines. Results: Among 36 patients with dysplastic nodule (21 low-grade, 15 high-grade, 17.4±2.6 mm), 17 (47%) showed arterial wash-in, 15 (42%) portal/venous hypodensity whereas 4 (11%) had neither pattern. During 6-128 (median 36) months, 21 patients developed a hepatocellular carcinoma at a rate of 13.8% per year, intranodular. =8.7% vs extranodular. =7.1% per year. Hepatocellular carcinoma occurred more frequently in high-grade than low-grade dysplastic nodules (32.2% vs 9.3% per year, p=0.0039); the maximum time to hepatocellular carcinoma transformation was 27 months for intranodular vs 67 months for extranodular tumours (p=0.025). No contrast-computed tomography pattern predicted neoplastic transformation of dysplastic nodules. Conclusion: The histological examination of liver nodules in cirrhosis lacking the imaging hallmark of hepatocellular carcinoma improves both prognostication and outcome of surveillance, since it dictates the intensity of the radiological follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalDigestive and Liver Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Cirrhosis
  • CT-scan
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver cell dysplasia
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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