Purpose: To evaluate the utility of a second ultrasound-guided fine-needle biopsy of liver nodules thought to be hepatocellular carcinoma when the original biopsy has failed to provide a reliable diagnosis.
Methods: Thirty-seven cirrhotic patients underwent ultrasound-guided fine-needle biopsy of liver nodules that were subsequently diagnosed as hepatocellular carcinoma. Each biopsy involved a single puncture with a 20 G cutting needle, which yielded pathologic material used both for cytologic and histologic studies. In 23 cases (mean diameter of nodules 48 mm) the biopsy furnished exclusively necrotic material (non-diagnostic subgroup); in the other 14 cases (mean diameter 26 mm) the biopsy yielded no neoplastic elements (false-negative subgroup). All 37 nodules were subjected to repeat biopsies performed in the same manner.
Results: The repeat biopsies provided a diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma in six of the 23 patients from the non-diagnostic subgroup and in seven of the 14 in the false-negative subgroup. Overall, repeat biopsy produced a diagnostic gain of 35.1%.
Conclusion: The chance of success with repeat biopsy of hepatocellular carcinoma is limited and may depend to some extent on the characteristics of the lesions (i.e., areas of necrosis in large nodules, well-differentiated cellular populations in small ones).