Infiltrative hepatocellular carcinoma: What radiologists need to know

Arich R. Reynolds, Alessandro Furlan*, David T. Fetzer, Eizaburo Sasatomi, Amir A. Borhani, Matthew T. Heller, Mitchell E. Tublin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death worldwide. The macroscopic growth pattern of HCC is subdivided into three categories: nodular, massive, and infiltrative. Infiltrative HCC accounts for 7%–20% of HCC cases and is confirmed at pathologic analysis on the basis of the spread of minute tumor nodules throughout large regions of the liver. Infiltrative HCC may represent a diagnostic challenge because it is often difficult to distinguish from background changes in cirrhosis at imaging. Infiltrative HCC usually spreads over multiple hepatic segments, occupying an entire hepatic lobe or the entire liver, and it is frequently associated with portal vein tumor thrombosis. The tumor is usually ill defined at ultrasonography and shows minimal and inconsistent arterial enhancement and heterogeneous washout at contrast material–enhanced computed tomography and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. The tumor may be more visible among the surrounding liver parenchyma at diffusion-, T1-, and T2-weighted MR imaging. Several liver diseases can mimic the infiltrative appearance of this malignancy, including focal confluent fibrosis, hepatic fat deposition, hepatic microabscesses, intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, and diffuse metastatic disease (pseudocirrhosis). The prognosis for patients with infiltrative HCC is poor because the tumor is often markedly advanced and associated with vascular invasion at presentation. Survival after surgical resection is decreased; thus, infiltrative HCC is a contraindication for resection and transplantation. Knowledge of the key tumor characteristics and imaging findings will help radiologists formulate a correct and timely diagnosis to improve patient management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-386
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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