Improving the prediction of hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhotic patients with an arterially-enhancing liver mass



In the United States, cirrhotic patients with known or suspected hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are prioritized for liver transplantation. Noninvasive criteria for the diagnosis of HCC rely on arterial enhancement of a mass. The aim of this study was to determine whether clinical, laboratory, and / or radiologic data can improve the prediction of HCC in cirrhotic patients with an arterially-enhancing mass. Between May 2002 and June 2003, dynamic gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of consecutive patients with liver cirrhosis and a solid mass were reviewed by 2 radiologists blinded to the clinical diagnosis. Clinical, laboratory, and radiologic data were recorded for all patients. A total of 94 patients with cirrhosis and an arterially-enhancing liver mass were studied, 66 (70%) of whom had HCC. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) >20 ng/mL (P = .029), tumor size >2 cm (P = .0018), and delayed hypointensity (P = .0001) were independent predictors of HCC. Delayed hypointensity of an arterially-enhancing mass had a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 96% for HCC. The presence of delayed hypointensity was the only independent predictor of HCC among patients with arterially-enhancing lesions <2 cm (odds ratio, 6.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-13), with a sensitivity of 80% and a specificity of 95%. In conclusion, delayed hypointensity of an arterially-enhancing mass was the strongest independent predictor of HCC, regardless of the size of the lesion. If additional studies confirm our results, the noninvasive criteria utilized to make a diagnosis of HCC should be revised. (Liver Transpl 2005;11:281–289.)