Arteriovenous shunts in patients with hepatic tumors

J Nucl Med. 1997 Aug;38(8):1201-5.


The study aimed to investigate the influence of tumor type, tumor size, tumor vascularity and treatment on arteriovenous shunts between the liver and lungs in patients with hepatic cancer.

Methods: Our previous assessment of the degrees of lung shunting using intra-arterial 99mTc-macroaggregated albumin in 125 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was extended to include 377 patients with HCC and 25 patients with colorectal liver metastases. Patients were given 111 MBq (3 mCi) of 99mTc-macroaggregated albumin during hepatic angiography. The lungs and the liver were localized as regions of interest on the digitized gamma scintigraphic image. The total counts taken over the lungs divided by the total counts taken over both the lungs and the liver gave the percentage of lung shunting. Tumor size was measured by computerized tomography or ultrasound scan. Tumor vascularity was assessed based on the degree of neovascularization. Linear regression and Wilcoxon rank test were used for statistical analysis.

Results: Patients with HCC had a higher median (7.6%) and a wider range (< 1-75.4%) of percentages of lung shunting when compared with those with colorectal liver metastases (median, 4.7%; range, < 1-23.9%). The lung shunting correlated with the tumor size in the 377 patients with HCC (r = 0.359; p < 0.0001). Excluding one outlier, we found a similar correlation in 24 patients with colorectal metastases (r = 0.686; p < 0.0001). In HCC, the mean lung shunting increased with increasing tumor size, up to 15 cm, and then remained almost unchanged, up to a size of > 20 cm. The mean lung shunting also increased with increasing vascularity grades, as assessed by hepatic angiography. The difference between any two vascularity grades was statistically significant (p = 0.0001-0.0148). Similar analysis by subgroups in colorectal liver metastases was impossible because of the small number of patients. Lung shunting decreased in HCC patients after the tumors were treated, but it might increase or decrease when the disease recurs.

Conclusion: The lung shunting was influenced by the type, size and vascularity of the hepatic tumor. The change in lung shunting with the status of the tumor after treatment further suggests a neoplastic nature of the blood vessels involved in the arteriovenous shunt.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / blood supply
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / physiopathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Circulation*
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Circulation*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Sex Factors
  • Technetium Tc 99m Aggregated Albumin


  • Technetium Tc 99m Aggregated Albumin