Reference Work Entry

General Surgery

pp 933-940

Differential Diagnosis of the Liver Mass

  • Wei-Chen LeeAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, Deputy Director, Comprehensive Cancer Center University of Alabama School of MedicineDepartment of General Surgery, Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital and Chang-Gung University Medical School
  • , Miin-Fu ChenAffiliated withDepartment of General and Visceral Surgery, University of HeidelbergDepartment of Surgery, Chang-Gung Memorial Hospital

Pearls and Pitfalls

  • Currently, most liver masses are asymptomatic and are identified incidentally during survey for chronic liver diseases or other purposes.

  • Many liver masses occur in cirrhotic livers secondary to chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections.

  • Abdominal ultrasonography is the most convenient imaging modality to screen patients at risk for liver masses and will differentiate cystic from solid tumors.

  • Dynamic computed tomography (CT) is recommended to assess the liver tumor and remainder of the abdominal cavity simultaneously.

  • CT, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and angiography can be valuable and complementary in the evaluation of liver masses.

  • Tumor markers, such as α-fetoprotein (AFP), carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), and carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9), may help to narrow the differential diagnosis.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) has not proven useful or cost-effective for differentiating most liver masses.


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