Significance of hepatocyte atypia in liver fine needle aspiration

Diagn Cytopathol. 2022 Apr;50(4):186-195. doi: 10.1002/dc.24851. Epub 2021 Aug 29.


Fine needle aspiration (FNA) of the liver is frequently the diagnostic procedure of choice for sampling hepatic lesions. One of the main diagnostic challenges in the interpretation of liver FNA is distinguishing dysplastic lesions and well-differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma (WD-HCC) from benign processes, as they share significant cytomorphologic overlap. Furthermore, the diagnosis of HCC often requires evaluation of stroma for invasion, which may not be present on cytology and small needle biopsy specimens. A reporting system for liver cytopathology has yet to be instituted. Without standardized and well-defined criteria for hepatocyte atypia, we recommend limiting the use of atypia in evaluation of liver FNA specimens to describe a diagnosis of exclusion, in which all known benign and neoplastic processes have been ruled out. The cytologic findings on the FNA of a liver nodule may be best reported as atypical hepatocytes in the absence of a core needle biopsy or cell block sufficient to render a definitive diagnosis of HCC.

Keywords: atypia; cytopathology; fine needle aspiration; hepatocyte; liver.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle / methods
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology