Streamlining radioembolization in UNOS T1/T2 hepatocellular carcinoma by eliminating lung shunt estimation

Ahmed Gabr, Srirajkumar Ranganathan, Samdeep K. Mouli, Ahsun Riaz, Vanessa L. Gates, Laura Kulik, Daniel Ganger, Haripriya Maddur, Christopher Moore, Elias Hohlastos, Nitin Katariya, Juan Carlos Caicedo, Aparna Kalyan, Robert J. Lewandowski, Riad Salem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Pre-treatment Tc-99m macroaggregated albumin (MAA) scans are routinely performed prior to transarterial radioembolization (TARE) to estimate lung shunt fraction (LSF) and lung dose. In this study, we investigate LSF observed in early hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and provide the scientific rationale for eliminating this step from routine practice. Methods: Patients with HCC who underwent Y90 from 2004 to 2018 were reviewed. Inclusion criteria were early stage HCC (UNOS T1/T2/Milan criteria: solitary ≤5 cm, 3 nodules ≤3 cm). LSF was determined using MAA in all patients. Associations between LSF and baseline characteristics were investigated. A “no-MAA” paradigm was then proposed based on a homogenous group that expressed very low LSF. Results: Of 1,175 patients with HCC treated with TARE, 448 patients met inclusion criteria. Mean age was 65.6 years and 303 (68%) were males. A total of 352 (79%) had solitary lesions and 406 (91%) unilobar disease. Two-hundred and forty-three (54%), 178 (40%) and 27 (6%) patients were Child-Pugh class A, B and C, respectively. Median LSF was 3.9% (IQR 2.4–6%). Median administered activity was 0.9 GBq (IQR 0.6–1.4), for a median segmental volume of 170 cm3 (range: 60–530). Median lung dose was 1.9 Gy (IQR: 1.0–3.3). The presence of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS; n = 38) was associated with LSF >10% (odds ratio 12.2; 95% CI 5.2–28.6; p <0.001). Median LSF was 3.8% (IQR: 2.4–5.7%) and 6% (IQR: 3.8–15.3%) in no-TIPS vs. TIPS patients (p <0.001). Conclusion: LSF is clinically negligible in patients with UNOS T1/T2 HCC without TIPS. When segmental injections are planned, this step can be eliminated, thereby reducing time-to-treatment, number of procedures, and improving convenience for patients traveling from faraway. Lay summary: Transarterial radioembolization is a microembolic transarterial treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma. In our study, we found that early stage patients, where segmental injections are planned, exhibited low lung shunting, effectively eliminating the risk of radiation pneumonitis. We propose that the lung shunt study be eliminated in this subgroup, thus leading to fewer procedures, a cost reduction and improved convenience for patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1151-1158
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Radioembolization
  • Tc-MAA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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