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Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2006 Apr-Jun;69(2):230-5.

Management of small hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


In the last years the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is rising in cirrhotic patients worldwide. Due the importance of early and definite diagnosis of HCC, any nodular lesion detected in patients with chronic liver disease should be considered as suspicious for HCC. The screening and surveillance programs in patients with liver diseases have increased the number of small HCC detected at an early stage, when the therapeutic options available are able to provide benefit. The introduction of new imaging techniques has improved the accuracy of characterizing these nodules. According to the EASL recommendations, contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT), contrast enhanced ultrasound (US) and magnetic resonance (MR) with different MR-contrast agents are currently used to characterize liver lesions. Imaging guided biopsy is recommended for small nodules or in lesions without typical features (arterial hypervascularization) in at least two imaging techniques. Frequently the differential diagnosis of small nodules is complicated by discordant vascularity and recent studies have also demonstrated the presence of small hypovascular HCC at perfusional US and helical CT. At present, different treatment options can be offered to patients with diagnosis of small HCC at an early stage; percutaneous techniques, surgical resection and liver transplantation can provide benefit in properly selected patients. This review describes some critical points regarding the detection, diagnosis and therapeutic management of small nodules of HCC in cirrhotic patients.

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