Imaging-based diagnosis of benign lesions and pseudolesions in the cirrhotic liver

Matteo Renzulli, Stefano Brocchi, Anna Maria Ierardi, Matteo Milandri, Irene Pettinari, Vincenzo Lucidi, Caterina Balacchi, Paolo Muratori, Giovanni Marasco, Giulio Vara, Francesco Tovoli, Alessandro Granito, Gianpaolo Carrafiello, Fabio Piscaglia, Rita Golfieri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Liver cirrhosis is a leading cause of death worldwide, with 1-year mortality rates of up to 57% in decompensated patients. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary tumor in cirrhotic livers and the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Annually, up to 8% of patients with cirrhosis develop HCC. The diagnosis of HCC rarely requires histological confirmation: in fact, according to the most recent guidelines, the imaging features of HCC are almost always sufficient for a certain diagnosis. Thus, the role of the radiologist is pivotal because the accurate detection and characterization of focal liver lesions in patients with cirrhosis are essential in improving clinical outcomes. Despite recent technical innovations in liver imaging, several issues remain for radiologists regarding the differentiation of HCC from other hepatic lesions, particularly benign lesions and pseudolesions. It is important to avoid misdiagnosis of benign liver lesions as HCC (false-positive cases) because this diagnostic misinterpretation may lead to ineligibility of a patient for potentially curative treatments or inappropriate assignment of high priority scores to patients on waiting lists for liver transplantation. This review presents a pocket guide that could be useful for the radiologist in the diagnosis of benign lesions and pseudolesions in cirrhotic livers, highlighting the imaging features that help in making the correct diagnosis of macroregenerative nodules; siderotic nodules; arterioportal shunts; hemangiomas, including fast-filling hemangiomas, hemangiomas with pseudowashout, and sclerosed hemangiomas; confluent fibrosis; pseudomasses in chronic portal vein thrombosis; and focal fatty changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-20
Number of pages12
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Cirrhosis
  • Diagnosis
  • Fibrosis
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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