Mimics of cholangiocarcinoma: spectrum of disease

Radiographics. 2008 Jul-Aug;28(4):1115-29. doi: 10.1148/rg.284075148.


Cholangiocarcinoma is the second most common primary malignant hepatobiliary neoplasm, accounting for approximately 15% of liver cancers. Diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma is challenging and the prognosis is uniformly poor, with recurrence rates of 60%-90% after surgical resection. A wide spectrum of neoplastic and nonneoplastic conditions of the biliary tract may masquerade as cholangiocarcinoma, adding to the complexity of management in patients suspected to have cholangiocarcinoma. Mimics of cholangiocarcinoma constitute a heterogeneous group of entities that includes primary sclerosing cholangitis, recurrent pyogenic cholangitis, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome cholangiopathy, autoimmune pancreatitis, inflammatory pseudotumor, Mirizzi syndrome, xanthogranulomatous cholangitis, sarcoidosis, chemotherapy-induced sclerosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, metastases, melanoma, lymphoma, leukemia, and carcinoid tumors. These entities demonstrate characteristic histomorphology and variable clinicobiologic behaviors. The imaging findings of these disparate entities are protean and may be indistinguishable from those of cholangiocarcinoma. In most cases, a definitive diagnosis can be established only with histopathologic examination of a biopsy specimen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Radiography