Focal lesions in cirrhotic explant livers: pathological evaluation and accuracy of pretransplantation imaging examinations

Liver Transpl. 2002 Sep;8(9):749-61. doi: 10.1053/jlts.2002.34922.


Imaging detection and diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and dysplastic nodules (DNs) in cirrhotic patients is important because the number, size, and type of focal lesions strongly influence patient management. Focal lesions detected by imaging examinations during pretransplantation evaluation were correlated with focal lesions detected during detailed pathological examination of 49 cirrhotic explant livers. Within 6 months before transplantation, color Doppler ultrasonography (US), contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging were performed in 94%, 33%, and 55% of patients, respectively. In 2% to 8% of patients, different types of benign focal lesions were present, and a considerable proportion was interpreted as (pre)malignant on imaging examination. US detected only the largest HCCs (patient sensitivity, 40%; specificity, 100%) and no DNs. On a per-patient basis, contrast-enhanced CT and MR imaging had poor sensitivity (20% and 27%, respectively) and good specificity (100% and 94%, respectively) for DNs. Patient sensitivity and specificity of both techniques for HCC were reasonable (50% for CT, 70% for MR imaging) and good (79% for CT, 82% for MR imaging), respectively. Neither technique was able to detect smaller (pre)malignant lesions. As a consequence, 10% of patients underwent transplantation, although they exceeded the tumor number limit. Currently used imaging techniques cannot correctly determine the exact tumor burden in some cirrhotic patients. Regular contrast-enhanced MR examination of cirrhotic patients waiting for liver transplantation is the best tool for the early detection of (pre)malignant lesions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / complications
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / surgery
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / complications
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color