Fine needle biopsy of focal liver lesions: the hepatologist's point of view

Liver Transpl. 2004 Feb;10(2 Suppl 1):S26-9. doi: 10.1002/lt.20037.


Guided biopsy of hepatocellular carcinoma has been recently discussed again due to the progress of imaging techniques and the risk of malignant seeding after the procedure. Ultrasound is probably still the most accurate imaging modality for early detection of nodules arising on cirrhosis, even when compared with more advanced imaging techniques. It can be easily employed in the surveillance of high-risk cirrhotic patients. Ultrasound-guided biopsy has very high sensitivity and almost absolute specificity, which allows the appropriate treatment to start after a positive diagnosis. It also allows correct diagnosis of lymphomatous nodules, the incidence of which is increased in hepatitis C virus-related cirrhosis. The risk of seeding appears limited according to the currently available epidemiological data; this should be considered against the risk of false-positive diagnosis of malignancy based on imaging studies alone. Ultrasound-guided biopsy is a valuable tool also for the diagnosis of small nodules (less than 10 mm in diameter). The best accuracy in the sampling of hepatocellular carcinoma nodules is obtained by combining smear cytology and microhistology. This can be achieved by a single biopsy with a fine cutting needle that furnishes pathologic material suitable for both examinations, reducing risks and costs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle* / adverse effects
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Contraindications
  • Europe
  • Gastroenterology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Societies, Medical
  • Ultrasonography