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Keywords:

  • α-fetoprotein;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • cirrhosis;
  • ultrasonography

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Contrasting data have so far been reported on the utility and efficacy of screening patients with cirrhosis for early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The goal of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a regular ultrasonographic and laboratory follow-up for the early detection of small HCC, and to identify parameters correlated with a higher risk of developing HCC.

METHODS

One hundred and sixty-four consecutive patients with liver cirrhosis living in Emilia Romagna, Italy, were enrolled in the period 1989–1991. All patients underwent clinical, biochemical, and ultrasonographic evaluations at entry and at 3- and 6-month intervals during follow-up.

RESULTS

By April 1995, 34 patients had developed HCC. In 76% of the patients, ultrasonography identified HCC when it was still single and small (<4 cm). At discriminant, logistic regression and univariate analyses, sex and the entry concentration of alkaline phosphatase, α-fetoprotein, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, and albumin were associated with a higher risk of developing HCC, whereas at multivariate analysis (Cox's model), only sex and the entry concentration of alkaline phosphatase, albumin, and α-fetoprotein were independently and significantly related to the appearance of HCC.

CONCLUSIONS

A regular ultrasonogrpahic follow-up, timed at 3- to 6-month intervals according to the risk of HCC development in patients with cirrhosis, allows the detection of liver carcinoma at an early stage in a high proportion of patients, possibly improving the prognosis of the disease. Cancer 1996;78:977-85.