Pretransplantation surveillance for possible hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis: epidemiology and CT-based tumor detection rate in 430 cases with surgical pathologic correlation

M S Peterson, R L Baron, J W Marsh, J H Oliver, S R Confer, L E Hunt
Radiology 2000, 217 (3): 743-9

PURPOSE: To determine the prevalence of clinically unsuspected hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with advanced cirrhosis and assess the sensitivity of helical computed tomographic (CT) surveillance for tumor detection in these patients.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Prospective direct correlation of CT findings with explanted liver specimen findings was performed in 430 transplant recipients with cirrhosis. The prevalence of clinically unsuspected HCC according to liver disease cause was evaluated. Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) values in patients with and those without tumor were recorded. Prospective and retrospective CT tumor detection was evaluated with respect to CT technique and time from CT to transplantation.

RESULTS: HCC was found in 59 (14%) of 430 transplant recipients without suspicion of tumor before referral for transplantation. HCC was most prevalent with hepatitis B (27%) and hepatitis C (22%). Serum AFP values were not sensitive for detection of most small tumors. With triphasic helical CT, the prospective and retrospective rates of identifying patients with tumor were 59% and 68%, respectively; the prospective and retrospective tumor nodule detection rates were 37% and 44%, respectively. Tumor detection rates were highest with CT performed within 67 days before transplantation.

CONCLUSION: Clinically unsuspected HCC is most prevalent with cirrhosis secondary to hepatitis B or C, and, when evaluated at CT, is best detected with triphasic contrast material-enhanced helical imaging performed within 67 days before transplantation.

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