Which findings on CT scans are characteristic of fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma?

Updated: Sep 05, 2019
  • Author: W Ross Stevens, MD; Chief Editor: John Karani, MBBS, FRCR  more...
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Abdominal CT scanning is the preferred imaging method for the diagnosis, staging, and follow-up surveillance of fibrolamellar carcinoma. CT scanning has high sensitivity in the detection of intrahepatic tumors and regional lymph node metastases. CT scanners provide the ability to scan the liver without enhancement and, during the arterial and portal venous phases, after the intravenous administration of iodinated contrast material. [10, 12, 14]

On nonenhanced scans, the primary fibrolamellar tumor typically appears as a large, solitary, hypoattenuating mass with well-circumscribed and lobulated margins. During the arterial-enhancing phase, the tumor is heterogeneously enhancing and becomes generally hyperattenuating with respect to the relatively less strongly enhancing surrounding liver. During the portal and delayed phases, the tumor remains enhancing and becomes more homogeneous in appearance, with its density more closely matching that of the liver as equilibrium is achieved.

Central scars (as seen in the image below) are present in 50-70% of fibrolamellar carcinomas and appear on CT scans as a central stellate hypoattenuating and hypoenhancing region in the mass. The scars may not be enhancing at all, or they may show mild enhancement on delayed-enhanced scans. Calcifications occur in 35-60% of fibrolamellar tumors, and they can be best identified as hyperattenuating foci on nonenhanced CT scans.

Contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) scan of Contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) scan of fibrolamellar carcinoma demonstrates a large, heterogeneously enhancing mass in the right lobe of the liver, with a hypoattenuating central scar and punctate, central calcification.

Metastatic lymphadenopathy is present at the time of initial diagnosis of fibrolamellar carcinoma in 50-70% of patients, and the lymph nodes are frequent sites for recurrent disease after surgical resection of primary lesions. Lymph node metastases are found most often in the porta hepatis (as demonstrated in the image below), and they can have a CT scan appearance similar to that of intrahepatic lesions. Other distant metastases, such as those to the lungs, peritoneum, or more distant lymph nodes, also can be detected by using CT scanning.


Computed tomography (CT) scan in a patient with fi Computed tomography (CT) scan in a patient with fibrolamellar carcinoma shows metastatic lymphadenopathy in the porta hepatis–gastrohepatic region.

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