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Clin Cancer Res. 2000 Sep;6(9):3469-73.

Outcomes of dysplastic nodules in human cirrhotic liver: a clinicopathological study.

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Third Department of Internal Medicine, Osaka City University Medical School, Osaka, Japan.


The number of dysplastic nodules detected clinically has increased since patients with hepatitis virus-associated cirrhosis, who are at increased risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), began to undergo regular cancer surveillance. Although it is potentially important to determine which type(s) of nodule may be prone to progress to HCC, outcomes of dysplastic nodules have not been fully investigated. This prompted us to examine the outcomes of dysplastic nodules in cirrhotic patients clinicopathologically. We studied 33 dysplastic nodules of <20 mm in maximum diameter, diagnosed by fine needle aspiration biopsy under ultrasonography (US). These nodules were clinically followed, mainly by US examination, for up to 70 months. When the nodules enlarged or exhibited changes on US, they were histologically reexamined by second biopsy. Surprisingly, 15 of the 33 nodules (45.5%) disappeared, 14 nodules (42.4%) remained unchanged, and only 4 nodules (12.1%) progressed to HCC. The latter 4 nodules were all hyperechoic on US and were composed of clear cells with fatty change or small cells with increased nuclear density, and in all 4 patients serum was positive for hepatitis C virus antibody. Univariate analyses revealed that, although not significant, the hyperechoic nodules or nodules with small cell change showed a higher HCC progression rate in comparison with the hypoechoic nodules or the nodules without small cell change. In summary, most of the dysplastic nodules we followed disappeared or remained unchanged, but some progressed to HCC. Hyperechoic nodules in patients with hepatitis C virus-associated cirrhosis, which show small cell change with increased nuclear density, may be prone to progress to HCC.

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