Cytohistologic Correlation of Cirrhosis and Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Pitfall in Diagnosis?

Kalisha A. Hill*, Ritu Nayar, Denise V.S. DeFrias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To compare the diagnostic criteria for cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) noted on liver fine needle aspirates (FNAs) and their corresponding liver needle core biopsies (NCBs). STUDY DESIGN: We reviewed FNA slides from 15 cases of cirrhosis and 6 cases of HCC and their corresponding NCBs. We compared a variety of specific nonarchitectural criteria, including small cell dysplasia (SCD) and large cell dysplasia (LCD), for distinguishing cirrhosis from HCC. RESULTS: FNA smears diagnostically correlated with NCBs. The cytologic criterion with the greatest correlation in predicting HCC on FNA was SCD. This was not noted in all the core biopsies, probably due to sampling error. LCD was seen more frequently in cirrhosis than HCC on both cytology and histology and therefore was not a criterion useful in establishing a diagnosis of malignancy. The remaining cytologic criteria had good correlations but did not aid in diagnosing HCC. CONCLUSION: FNA has good cytohistologic correlation with NCB for both cirrhosis and HCC. There is an association of SCD with HCC; however, LCD is not a reliable " precancerous" change as it is commonly seen in cirrhosis and HCC. Therefore, the presence of SCD on FNA should be reported and is an indication for close clinical follow-up to exclude HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-132
Number of pages6
JournalActa Cytologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Aspiration biopsy
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver cirrhosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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