Objective: The objective of our study was to prospectively evaluate the results of helical CT in the detection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with cirrhosis undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation. SUBJECTS AND METHODS. Eighty-five patients with cirrhosis were studied preoperatively with biphasic helical CT. Arterial, portal, and equilibrium phase images were obtained after injection of 170 mL of contrast material at 5 mL/sec. The prospective CT interpretation was compared with pathologic results on a lesion-by-lesion basis.
Results: Pathologic examination found 85 cases of HCC in 51 patients. Helical CT enabled a correct diagnosis of HCC in 67 of 85 lesions for a sensitivity of 78.8%. HCC nodules were hypervascular in the arterial phase and hypovascular in the equilibrium phase in 63.5% (54/85) of patients. The false-negative rate was 21% (n = 18), and the positive predictive value was 88%. We had nine false-positive findings (11.8%) related to hemangiomas, transient hepatic attenuation differences, and regenerative nodules. Helical CT detected 61% (23/38) of lesions smaller than 2 cm and 93.6% (44/47) of lesions 2 cm or larger.
Conclusion: Helical CT is a useful preoperative imaging technique in cirrhotic patients who are candidates for orthotopic liver transplantation, although it is relatively insensitive for detection of small lesions (< 2 cm).