Background/aims: This study aimed to assess the tolerance and the real sensitivity of Lipiodol-computed tomography in the detection of small hepatocellular carcinoma by comparison with pathological examination of the explanted livers.
Methods: Seventy-two patients with cirrhosis (Child A=8, B=36, C=28) awaiting orthotopic liver transplantation underwent Lipiodol-computed tomography to determine the presence, number and location of possible hepatocellular carcinoma nodules. Before liver transplantation six patients had a presumed single hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosed by biopsy. Liver transplantation was performed a mean of 6 months after Lipiodol-computed tomography. Explanted livers were sectioned at 0.8- to 1-cm intervals. Lipiodol-computed tomography staging and pathologic findings were compared.
Results: Pathologic studies showed 24 hepatocellular carcinoma nodules (diameter, 2-42 mm) not diagnosed before liver transplantation in 14 of the 72 livers. Lipiodol-computed tomography detected 6 of these 24 nodules, but none of the daughter lesions (n=9) in the six patients with a presumed single hepatocellular carcinoma. Lesion-by-lesion analysis revealed a sensitivity of 37%. Lipiodol-computed tomography falsely detected three additional nodules not confirmed by pathologic examination (1 haemangioma, 2 nondysplastic regenerating nodules). One Child C patient developed variceal bleeding within 2 days after injection of Lipiodol.
Conclusions: Tolerance of this procedure was satisfactory, even in Child C patients. Lipiodol-computed tomography has a low sensitivity in the detection of small hapatocellular carcinoma. These results must be considered when liver resection or liver transplantation is proposed for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.