Objective: To assess by MR imaging the frequency of hepatic nodules in patients waiting on the liver transplant list and to determine whether certain underlying hepatic diseases were more often associated with the development of such hepatic nodules.
Material and methods: We reviewed the MR and clinical records in all patients seen by the liver transplant service at our center since its inception in January 1998 until September 2002. A total of 371 patients (207 men and 164 women, age range 18-68 years, mean 45 years) were included in the study. The presence of hepatic nodules, size, number and underlying hepatic diseases were determined in all patients. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed on a 1.5-T MR imager using T1-weighted, T2-weighted and multi-phase gadolinium-enhanced sequences. Odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed to evaluate the association between the underlying hepatic disease and the development of hepatic nodule.
Results: Among 371 liver transplantation candidates, the most common underlying hepatic disease was hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, either alone (n=93; 25%) or associated with other hepatic diseases (n=40; 10.8%). Of all patients, 33 (8.9%) had regenerative nodules (RNs), 40 (10.7%) dysplastic nodules (DNs) and 57 (15.3%) hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). Hepatocellular carcinoma was observed in 35.3% of patients with HCV infection and alcohol abuse combined, 24.5% with cryptogenic cirrhosis, 25% with hemochromatosis and 19% with alcohol abuse. Patients who had either DNs or HCC were 2.5 times more likely to have either alcohol abuse or HCV, alone or combined, as the substrate of their liver disease (OR 2.54, 95% CI 1.56-4.13). Our data suggest a supra-additive interaction between HCV infection and ethanol in their association with MR imaging detected lesions.
Conclusion: Patients with cryptogenic cirrhosis, alcohol abuse, HCV infection (alone or combined) and hemochromatosis had the greatest likelihood of having HCC, with the combination of HCV infection and alcohol abuse having the highest of all.