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Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Feb;97(2):397-405.

Diagnosis of liver nodules observed in chronic liver disease patients during ultrasound screening for early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Unità Operativa di Gastroenterologia, Ospedale Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza IRCCS, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.



The aim of our study was to evaluate the nature of focal liver lesions detected during the ultrasound follow-up of a population (prevalently anti-hepatitis C virus [anti-HCV] positive) with chronic liver disease.


The study population consisted of 1827 consecutive newly diagnosed chronic liver disease cases without liver nodules at enrollment. Patients were screened at 4-month intervals by ultrasound and serum alpha-fetoprotein assessment. All lesions detected on imaging studies (except those accompanied by diagnostic a-fetoprotein levels) were subjected to biopsy (histology and cytology).


During the 7-yr follow-up period (mean = 43.1 months), one or more solid focal lesions were found in 287 patients. a-Fetoprotein was diagnostic for hepatocellular carcinoma in 51 patients. Ultrasound-guided fine-needle biopsy was performed in the remaining 236 patients, yielding a diagnosis in 214: 198 hepatocellular carcinomas, 11 dysplastic nodules, and five B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (all confined to the liver and all in patients with chronic HCV infection). Twenty-two patients with nondiagnostic biopsies received diagnoses of hepatocellular carcinoma (20) or dysplastic nodules (two) based on arteriography or surgical biopsy.


Focal lesions arising in patients with HCV-related chronic liver disease can be other than hepatocellular carcinoma, and ultrasound-guided fine-needle biopsy plays an important role in their diagnosis. The prevalence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in this selected population was 0.31%. The fact that all five lymphoma patients had cirrhosis related to hepatitis C strengthens the hypothesis of an etiological correlation between the latter infection and B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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