Vascular endothelial growth factor is a potent direct-acting angiogenic factor. Early in hepatocarcinogenesis, hepatocellular carcinomas do not show hypervascularity; at later stages, they require abundant arterial blood flow. We investigated the role of vascular endothelial growth factor in hepatocellular carcinoma arterialization. We studied 51 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. All patients had undergone hepatic arteriography. Vascular endothelial growth factor expression was investigated by immunohistochemistry (n = 51) and in situ hybridization (n = 13), and the changes in vascular endothelial growth factor expression were evaluated in relation to tumor differentiation and changes in tumor vascularity. The expression of vascular endothelial growth factor isoforms in hepatocellular carcinomas was also analyzed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (n = 10). Vascular endothelial growth factor expression was detected in hepatoma cells and hepatic stellate cells, and increased vascular endothelial growth factor expression was associated with tumor dedifferentiation. Vascular endothelial growth factor expression in hypervascular hepatocellular carcinomas was greater than in those not showing hypervascularity. The major vascular endothelial growth factor isoforms expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma were 121 and 165. These findings indicate that vascular endothelial growth factors 121 and 165 play a critical role in the process of angiogenesis in hepatocellular carcinomas.