OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the outcomes of small (5-10 mm), arterially enhancing nodules (SAENs) shown exclusively at the hepatic arterial phase of CT in a hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) surveillance population and to determine risk factors for developing HCC.
METHODS: The study population included 112 patients (male:female = 100:12; aged 36-92 years) with 175 SAENs who were at risk of HCC. We evaluated serial changes during follow-up (1.4-41.8 months, mean 35.7 months) and analysed the initial CT findings of SAENs and the accompanying lesions to elucidate the risk factors for HCC development.
RESULTS: Of 175 SAENs, 101(57.7%) disappeared and 34(19.4%) persisted. Forty SAENs (22.9%) became HCC in 33 patients (29.5%). Presence of HCC treatment history (p = 0.005, risk ratio = 7.429), a larger size of SAEN (p = 0.003, risk ratio = 1.630), presence of coexistent HCC (p = 0.021, risk ratio = 3.777) and absence of coexistent typical arterioportal shunts (p = 0.003, risk ratio = 4.459) turned out to be independently significant risk factors for future development of HCC.
CONCLUSION: SAENs were frequently seen in an HCC surveillance population and have a 22.9% probability of becoming HCC on a per-lesion basis. Risk increased particularly when the lesion was associated with a previous or concurrent HCC, a large size or found without a coexistent typical arterioportal shunt.