Radiologic spectrum of cholangiocarcinoma: emphasis on unusual manifestations and differential diagnoses

Radiographics. 2001 Oct:21 Spec No:S97-S116. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.21.suppl_1.g01oc12s97.


Most cholangiocarcinomas are ductal adenocarcinomas that arise from both intra- and extrahepatic bile duct epithelium, and their typical growth pattern can be classified as exophytic, infiltrative, polypoid, or a combination of these. Those of unusual histologic type (eg, mucin-hypersecreting cholangiocarcinoma, squamous adenocarcinoma, biliary cystadenocarcinoma, and mucinous carcinoma) show a growth pattern different from that of the typical ones (ie, ductal). Cholangiocarcinomas frequently develop in patients with any of a variety of preexisting bile duct diseases, some of which are considered precursors of cholangiocarcinoma (eg, biliary lithiasis, clonorchiasis, recurrent pyogenic cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis). Some bulky hepatic tumors of either primary or secondary origin mimic exophytic peripheral cholangiocarcinoma. Some variants of hepatocellular carcinoma, such as sclerosing, fibrolamellar, and cholangiohepatocellular carcinoma, resemble exophytic peripheral cholangiocarcinoma, while that with intraductal growth resembles polypoid cholangiocarcinoma. Among benign bile duct diseases, tumorous conditions (eg, benign biliary tumors) may mimic polypoid cholangiocarcinoma, whereas benign stricture of various causes (eg, cholangitides, traumatic and postsurgical sequelae, chronic pancreatitis, papillary stenosis) usually mimics infiltrative cholangiocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans