The role of routine biopsy of the background liver in the management of hepatocellular carcinoma

Hum Pathol. 2023 Aug:138:18-23. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2023.05.009. Epub 2023 May 24.


We sought to determine the influence of background liver biopsies on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) management. The pathology database at a large university hospital was searched between 2013 and 2018 for all instances of when a separate biopsy of the nontumoral liver was performed within 6 months of an HCC biopsy. Patients were evaluated for baseline demographic and clinical characteristics, treatment proposed prior to biopsy, and impact of biopsy results on management. Among the 104 identified cases of paired liver biopsies, 22% were women; the median age was 64 years; and most were of earlier HCC stages at diagnosis (Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stages 0-A: 70%). Four patients among 10 in whom cirrhosis status was clinically unclear were confirmed to have cirrhosis on biopsy, and 4 patients did not have cirrhosis despite clinical suspicion. Treatment was altered by the background parenchymal findings for 5 patients (5%): management was less aggressive for 4 patients and more aggressive for 1 patient. A background liver biopsy can significantly impact the management of a small subset of HCC patients, especially those with early disease, and should be considered concurrently with the biopsy of the mass.

Keywords: Background liver biopsy; Cirrhosis; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Impact of biopsy; Management.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Liver Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged