Prominent Pseudoacini in Focal Nodular Hyperplasia: A Potential Diagnostic Pitfall

Am J Surg Pathol. 2022 Oct 1;46(10):1380-1385. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000001931. Epub 2022 Jun 22.


Pseudoacini are generally a morphologic feature of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), being absent or rare in benign hepatocytic tumors, such as hepatocellular adenoma. However, rarely these can be seen in focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) and may pose diagnostic challenges, especially when prominent. The study was aimed to evaluate the occurrence of pseudoacini in FNH and their clinicopathologic correlations. A total of 95 FNH cases diagnosed from 2005 to 2020 were included in the study. A pseudoacinus was defined as a circular arrangement of hepatocytes around a central dilated lumen present within the lobular parenchyma of the lesion with or without inspissated bile. Among the 95 FNH cases, 28 (29.5%) showed pseudoacini, which were prominent in 12 (12.6%) cases. Of these 3 occurred in patients above 50 years old. The pseudoacini were numerous in 3 cases, leading to an initial consideration of HCC in the differential diagnosis, and 1 case was diagnosed as well-differentiated hepatocellular neoplasm on initial biopsy. All 12 cases showed map-like staining pattern for glutamine synthetase. The hepatocytes forming the pseudoacini were positive for CK7 and HepPar1, while the inner lumina were highlighted by CD10 and bile salt export pump immunostains similar to adjacent canaliculi. The presence of prominent pseudoacini was not significantly associated with any clinical or pathologic features. The findings suggest that pseudoacini are likely manifestation of hepatocyte biliary transdifferentiation associated with chronic cholestasis in the lesion. This feature may pose a potential diagnostic pitfall especially on needle biopsies and awareness is needed to avoid misdiagnosing this as HCC.

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 11
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Focal Nodular Hyperplasia* / diagnosis
  • Focal Nodular Hyperplasia* / pathology
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Middle Aged


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B, Member 11
  • Glutamate-Ammonia Ligase