Rupture of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Review of Literature

J Clin Exp Hepatol. 2019 Mar-Apr;9(2):245-256. doi: 10.1016/j.jceh.2018.04.002. Epub 2018 Apr 26.


Approximately 700,000 people die of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) each year worldwide, making it the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. Rupture is a potentially life-threatening complication of HCC. The incidence of HCC rupture is higher in Asia and Africa than in Europe. In Asia approximately 10% of patients with a diagnosis of HCC die due to rupture each year. Spontaneous rupture is the third most common cause of death due to HCC after tumor progression and liver failure. The diagnosis of rupture in patients without history of cirrhosis or HCC may be difficult. The most common symptom of ruptured HCC is abdominal pain (66-100%). Shock at presentation can be seen in 33-90% of cases; abdominal distension is reported in 33%. Abdominal paracentesis documenting hemoperitoneum is a reliable test to provisionally diagnose rupture of HCC, it can be seen in up to 86% of clinically suspected cases. The diagnoses can be confirmed by computed tomography scan or ultrasonography, or both in 75% of cases. Careful pre-treatment evaluation is essential to decide the best treatment option. Management of ruptured HCC involves multi-disciplinary care where hemostasis remains a primary concern. Earlier studies have reported a mortality rate of 25-75% in the acute phase of ruptured HCC. However, recent studies have reported a significant decrease in the incidence of mortality. There is also a decrease in the incidence of ruptured HCC due to improved surveillance and early detection of HCC. Transarterial Embolization is the least invasive method to effectively induce hemostasis in the acute stage with a success rate of 53-100%. Hepatic resection in the other hand has the advantage of achieving hemostasis and in the same go offers a potentially curative resection in selected patients.

Keywords: CTP, Child Turcotte Pugh; HBV, Hepatitis B Virus; HCC, Hepatocellular Carcinoma; HCV, Hepatitis C Virus; TACE, Trans-arterial Chemo-embolization; TAE, Transarterial Embolization; VEGF, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor; hemoperitoneum; hepatocellular carcinoma; spontaneous rupture; transarterial embolization.

Publication types

  • Review