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Benign and malignant mimickers of infiltrative hepatocellular carcinoma: tips and tricks for differential diagnosis on CT and MRI

  • Autori: Vernuccio F.; Porrello G.; Cannella R.; Vernuccio L.; Midiri M.; Giannitrapani L.; Soresi M.; Brancatelli G.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2021
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista
  • OA Link:


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may have an infiltrative appearance in about 8–20% of cases. Infiltrative HCC can be a challenging diagnosis and it is associated with the worst overall survival among HCC patients. Infiltrative HCC is characterized by the spread of multiple minute nodules throughout the liver, without a dominant one, ultimately resulting into macrovascular invasion. On CT and MRI, infiltrative HCC appears as an ill-defined, large mass, with variable degree of enhancement, and satellite neoplastic nodules in up to 52% of patients. On MRI, it may show restriction on diffusion weighted imaging, hyperintensity on T2- and hypointensity on T1-weighted images, and, if hepatobiliary agent is used, hypointensity on hepatobiliary phase. Infiltrative HCC must be differentiated from other liver diseases, such as focal confluent fibrosis, steatosis, amyloidosis, vascular disorders of the liver, cholangiocarcinoma, and diffuse metastatic disease. In cirrhotic patients, the identification of vascular tumor invasion of the portal vein and its differentiation from bland thrombosis is of utmost importance for patient management. On contrast enhanced CT and MRI, portal vein tumor thrombosis appears as an enhancing thrombus within the portal vein, close to the main tumor and results into vein enlargement. The aim of this pictorial review is to show CT and MRI features that allow the diagnosis of infiltrative HCC and portal vein tumor thrombosis. A particular point of interest includes the tips and tricks for differential diagnosis with potential mimickers of infiltrative HCC.