Surveillance for Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Patients With Cirrhosis

Ju Dong Yang; W. Ray Kim


Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012;10:16-21. 

In This Article

Clinical Scenario

A59-year-old man was referred to liver transplantation clinic for the evaluation of enlarging abdominal girth and swelling of feet during the preceding 2 months. The patient was a Cambodian native who immigrated to the United States 5 years ago. The patient was first diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection shortly after his entry into the United States. However, he was not further evaluated, treated, or followed. He had no personal or family history of liver disease or liver cancer. Physical examination of the abdomen showed mild hepatosplenomegaly with positive shifting dullness from a moderate amount of ascites. There was no abdominal tenderness. Laboratory results included platelet count, 95,000/μL; aspartate aminotransferase, 100 U/L; alanine aminotransferase, 45 U/L; and Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score, 13. Viral serology showed hepatitis B surface antigen–positive and eantigen– positive and HBV DNA of 5 million IU/mL. Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) was normal at 4 ng/mL. An abdominal ultrasound (US) showed cirrhotic liver contour and evidence of portal hypertension. An esophagogastroduodenoscopy showed large esophageal varices. The patient was started on the following medications: spironolactone and furosemide for the ascites, propranolol for the varices, and entecavir for HBV. Patient was further assessed and then listed for liver transplantation.

During the ensuing 12 months, the patient had substantial clinical improvement including resolution of ascites as well as hepatitis B e seroconversion. He also underwent abdominal US and serum AFP measurement on a 6-month interval. An abdominal US performed 18 months after his presentation showed a new 2.1-cm hyperechoic nodule in the right lobe of the liver along with mild elevation of serum AFP at 22 ng/mL. A subsequent triphasic abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan showed a 2.2-cm well-circumscribed vascular mass that had arterial enhancement and venous washout, thus meeting the radiographic diagnosis criteria for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD). The patient underwent transarterial chemoembolization and subsequently received a liver transplant. Four years later, the patient is doing well with satisfactory liver function with no evidence of recurrent HBV or HCC.


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