Diagnosis and Follow-up of Incidental Liver Lesions in Children

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2022 Mar 1;74(3):320-327. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000003377.


Incidental liver lesions are identified in children without underlying liver disease or increased risk of hepatic malignancy in childhood. Clinical and imaging evaluation of incidental liver lesions can be complex and may require a multidisciplinary approach. This review aims to summarize the diagnostic process and follow-up of incidental liver lesions based on review of the literature, use of state-of-the-art imaging, and our institutional experience. Age at presentation, gender, alpha fetoprotein levels, tumor size, and imaging characteristics should all be taken into consideration to optimize diagnosis process. Some lesions, such as simple liver cyst, infantile hemangioma, focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH), and focal fatty lesions, have specific imaging characteristics. Recently, contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) was Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for the evaluation of pediatric liver lesions. CEUS is most specific in lesions smaller than 3 cm and is most useful in the diagnosis of infantile hemangioma, FNH, and focal fatty lesions. The use of hepatobiliary contrast in MRI increases specificity in the diagnosis of FNH. Recently, lesion characteristics in MRI were found to correlate with subtypes of hepatocellular adenomas and associated risk for hemorrhage and malignant transformation. Biopsy should be considered when there are no specific imaging characteristics of a benign lesion. Surveillance with imaging and alpha fetoprotein (AFP) should be performed to confirm the stability of lesions when the diagnosis cannot be determined, and whenever biopsy is not feasible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Focal Nodular Hyperplasia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Focal Nodular Hyperplasia* / pathology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemangioma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Hemangioma* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • alpha-Fetoproteins


  • Contrast Media
  • alpha-Fetoproteins