Space Occupying Lesions in the Liver

Indian J Pediatr. 2016 Nov;83(11):1291-1302. doi: 10.1007/s12098-016-2240-x. Epub 2016 Oct 25.


Space occupying liver lesions usually present with abdominal pain or abnormal physical findings, such as a palpable abdominal mass or distention. Liver lesions identified in children include benign and malignant neoplasms, inflammatory masses, cysts and metastatic lesions. Two-thirds of liver lesions in children are malignant. Hepatoblastoma accounts for two-thirds of malignant liver tumors in children. Benign lesions of the liver in children include vascular lesions, hamartomas, adenomas, and focal nodular hyperplasia. Although benign and malignant liver masses share some clinical manifestations, however treatment and prognosis differ. Evaluation involves physical examination, imaging evaluation and laboratory investigations such as serological markers [alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)] for malignant liver lesions. Ultrasound is the initial imaging modality of choice because it can detect, characterize, and provide the extent of liver lesions. However, CT or MRI are often subsequently performed for further characterization, assessment of precise extent, and detection of associated metastatic disease in cases of malignant hepatic neoplasm. Serological markers (such as alpha fetoprotein) can be useful in narrowing the differential diagnosis when they are markedly elevated but a substantial number of patients unfortunately do not have high levels of these markers at the time of presentation or cautious interpretation is warranted as AFP level is frequently elevated in infants up to 6 mo of age and may be slightly elevated with benign tumors and with hepatic insult or regeneration. Therefore, a tissue diagnosis is often required to guide subsequent management. The histology and anatomy of a pediatric liver tumor guides the treatment and prognosis.

Keywords: Focal nodular hyperplasia; Hepatoblastoma; Hepatocellular adenoma; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Infantile hemangioendothelioma; Nodular regenerative hyperplasia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Cysts
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Focal Nodular Hyperplasia / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Liver
  • Liver Diseases
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*