Patients with cirrhosis are at significant risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of the present study was to evaluate the relationship between the percentage of hepatocytes showing nucleolar hypertrophy and the development of HCC in cirrhosis of different causes. A total of 111 cirrhotic patients were studied, with a mean follow-up period of 83.3 months. Histologic sections from liver biopsy specimens were silver stained for selective visualization of the nucleolus; the nucleolar area was measured by image cytometry. Nucleoli with a size of 7 μm2 or greater were considered to be hypertrophic. The nucleolar index was obtained by calculating the percentage of hepatocytes disclosing a nucleolar area of 7 μm2 or greater. During the observation time, HCC was diagnosed in 39 of 111 patients. The incidence rate of HCC was greater in patients with nucleolar indexes of 2.5 or greater than in patients with nucleolar indexes of less than 2.5 (16.49%/y vs. 3.41%/y, respectively; P <.0001). The capacity of the nucleolar index to predict HCC development was separately tested in groups of patients divided by etiology, and it was found to be particularly relevant in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related cirrhosis (P = .0006). Among patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, high nucleolar-index values were associated with a greater risk for HCC development, but the difference in the incidence rate of HCC between groups with a nucleolar index of 2.5 or greater and less than 2.5 was not statistically significant (P = .0944). In conclusion, our results have shown that high percentages of hepatocytes showing nucleolar hypertrophy significantly predict HCC development in patients with HBV infection, whereas their predictive value in HCV-related cirrhosis seems to be lower.
ASJC Scopus subject areas