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Radiology. 2001 Jun;219(3):699-706.

Discrimination of small hepatic hemangiomas from hypervascular malignant tumors smaller than 3 cm with three-phase helical CT.

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Division of Abdominal Imaging, Department of Radiology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 200 Lothrop St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



To compare the appearance of small hepatic hemangiomas at nonenhanced and contrast material-enhanced helical computed tomography (CT) with that of small (<3-cm) hypervascular malignant liver tumors and to evaluate the accuracy of multiphase helical CT for differentiating small hemangiomas from small hypervascular malignant tumors.


Radiologists reviewed multiphase helical CT liver images in 86 patients with 37 hemangiomas and 49 malignant liver tumors. They evaluated lesion type and degree of enhancement for change from arterial to portal venous phase. They rated their confidence in the discrimination of hemangiomas from malignant tumors.


At arterial phase CT, enhancement similar to aortic enhancement was observed in 19%-32% of hemangiomas and 0%-2% of malignant tumors; globular enhancement, in 62%-68% and 4%-12%, respectively. At portal venous phase CT, enhancement similar to blood pool enhancement was observed in 43%-54% of hemangiomas and 4%-14% of malignant tumors; globular enhancement, in 46%-49% and 0%-2%, respectively. For all readers and all phases of enhancement, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curves was 0.81-0.87, indicating that inherent accuracy of CT is high and that there was no significant difference (P >.28) in overall accuracy. Readers diagnosed hemangiomas with 47%-53% mean sensitivity with all enhancement phases and diagnosed malignant lesions with 95% mean specificity.


Small hemangiomas frequently show atypical appearances at CT. Two-phase helical CT does not improve sensitivity but does improve specificity for differentiating hemangiomas from hypervascular malignant tumors.

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