An elderly man with progressive focal nodular hyperplasia
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Patients with focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) develop benign hepatocellular nodules. FNH most frequently occurs in young women. There are no reports of the onset of FNH in elderly men. We report a case of FNH in an elderly man, whose nodules increased in number and size. The patient underwent surgery for carcinoma of the left renal pelvis at 69 years of age; no liver masses were noted on yearly follow-up contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CECT). Ten years later, CECT revealed a hepatic mass, and magnetic resonance imaging suggested FNH. The nodules increased in number and size in subsequent follow-up examinations.
KeywordsFocal nodular hyperplasia Progressive type Older age Elderly man
Patients with focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) develop benign hepatocellular nodules. FNH shows characteristic immunohistological findings without genetic mutations. On contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CECT), the nodules show a hypervascular pattern. When central scarring is present, a spoke wheel appearance is observed . On ultrasound imaging, borders are unclear, and various signals are noted within the lesions. Typical contrast-enhanced ultrasound findings include a hypervascular appearance and a spoke wheel appearance [2, 3, 4]. On magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), iso-signals are often observed on T1-weighted, T2-weighted, and diffusion-weighted images. In the hepatocellular phase of gadolinium-ethoxybenzyl-diethylenetriaminpentaacetic acid-enhanced MRI (EOB-MRI), non-uniform hyperintense signals are observed and the center of the lesions are thought to reflect central scarring and vascular images [5, 6, 7, 8].
Epidemiologically, FNH occurs more frequently in women of between 20 and 50 years of age; there have been no reports of the progression of FNH in elderly men. The natural course of FNH remains largely unclear as few reports have investigated this issue [7, 9, 10, 11]. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first reported case in which FNH occurred and the nodules increased in size and number in an elderly man. The present report describes a rare case involving the onset of FNH in an elderly man of 79 years of age, whose nodules increased in size and number at 89 years of age.
Laboratory data at the time of liver biopsy
Blood cell count
White blood cell
Red blood cell
Blood urea nitrogen
Ultrasound (Fig. 5)
An ultrasound examination (Logiq E9, GE Healthcare, Milwaukee, WI, USA), performed during the liver biopsy, revealed a nodule of 35 mm in diameter with unclear borders, an irregular shape, and fairly hyperechoic signals in segment 7 on B mode images. The nodule had no halo. We did not note any posterior echo enhancement or lateral shadows (Fig. 5a). Color Doppler and pulse wave Doppler ultrasound revealed arterial flow from the nodule center. The use of Sonazoid (Daiichi-Sankyo, Tokyo, Japan) contrast agent revealed that the nodules were hypervascular, spreading out from the nodule center on the arterial phase (Fig. 5b).
Perfusion images indicated that the enhancement pattern of fast centrifugal filling of the lesion was composed of central vessels and radical vascular branches (the so-called spoke-wheel appearance) (Fig. 5d).
In the post-vascular phase (Kupffer phase), there was no defect in the lesion (Fig. 5e).
Histological and immunohistochemical findings (Fig. 6)
The background liver was normal (Fig. 6a). The histological and immunohistochemical findings were compatible with FNH. Staining for liver-fatty acid-binding protein (L-FABP) was positive (Fig. 6c). Immunolabelling for glutamine synthetase revealed map-like staining within the lesion (Fig. 6d, e). Staining for β-catenin (Fig. 6f), serum amyloid A (SAA) (Fig. 6g), heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) (Fig. 6h), and Glypican3 (GPC3) (Fig. 6i) was negative. Staining of C-reactive protein (CRP) was not significantly positive. (Fig. 6j).
Histological findings showed that there was no recurrence of carcinoma of the renal pelvis.
FNH is a hyperplastic lesion with a hypervascular appearance on various images. Previously, it had been difficult to differentiate FNHs from hypervascular hepatocellular carcinomas; thus, hepatectomy was commonly performed. In addition, it tends to be difficult to differentiate FNHs from hepatocellular adenomas (HCA). However, advances in diagnostic imaging and pathology have made it possible to definitively diagnose the condition with biopsy, and a conservative approach with regular follow-up examinations is now commonly selected. According to the WHO Classification of Tumors of the Digestive System 2010, HCA can be classified by genetic type into 4 subtypes . HCA can be clearly defined by means of mutated genes, immunohistochemical findings, gender-related differences, histological characteristics, and typical clinical findings. While no genetic mutations are noted in cases of FNH, immunohistochemistry typically reveals that GS has a map-like pattern, and the lesions are L-FABP-positive, SAA-negative, and β-catenin-negative. It is also typical for histological examinations to reveal a central scar, for the normal portal region to not be apparent, and for inflammatory cell invasion, ductular reactions, and sinusoid expansion to be noted .
Our patient developed FNH while undergoing follow-up after surgery for carcinoma of the renal pelvis. There was no hepatic mass on CECT at 78 years of age. The following year, CECT showed a 25-mm hypervascular mass in the right lobe of the liver. In this extremely rare case, we observed increases in the size and number of FNHs while following the patient for FNH. The patient’s diagnostic imaging findings were suggestive of FNH and the condition was diagnosed pathologically. Background factors related to the development of benign hepatocellular nodules include FNH, nodular regenerative hyperplasia, and partial nodular transformation. These lesions are caused by anomalous components of the portal tract and are called “anomalous portal tract syndrome” [14, 15]. FNH is an arterial dominant nodule caused by Glisson’s capsule abnormalities.
Multiple FNHs commonly complicate cases of congenital heart disease or liver disease with blood flow abnormalities. It has been reported that FNH may arise in cases of congenital heart disease following Fontan surgery for cases of the single cardiac ventricle . Liver diseases accompanied by blood flow abnormalities include non-cirrhotic portal hypertension, such as Budd–Chiari syndrome, idiopathic portal hypertension, nodular regenerative hyperplasia, and extrahepatic obliteration [14, 15, 17, 18].
A Glisson’s capsule abnormality might have played a role in the development of FNH. However, our case did not involve congenital heart disease or liver disease with blood flow abnormalities; thus, the cause of the increase in the size and number of lesions was unknown.
While most aspects of the natural course of FNH remain unknown, a small number of cases have been reported. Two reports said that FNHs increased in 2 of 18 cases  and 1 of 34 cases . We found that each report indicated that it was rare for the FNHs to increase in size. The condition in which FNH nodules increase in size is referred to as progressive-type FNH and is a rare clinical finding. One possible reason for FNH nodules to increase in size is an increased amount of blood flow into the lesion [21, 22]. Several reports targeting female patients have indicated correlations with the use of oral contraceptives (OCs) and pregnancy, with 1 report suggesting that the long-term use of OCs is related to an increase in the size of FNH nodules . It has also been reported that temporarily stopping OCs resulted in the regression of a giant FNH nodule . It has been reported that FNH nodules may complicate cases of hepatocellular adenoma . The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology reported the malignant transformation of FNH [25, 26]. These reports suggested that there was a possibility that FNH may transform into other types of nodules. In this case, the only pathological evidence was from a biopsy specimen. Thus, we cannot deny the possibility that HCA or malignancy existed with FNH in another area. Further follow-up investigations should be conducted.
FNH occurs more frequently in women of between 20 and 50 years of age. The abovementioned reports included a large proportion of female patients of 15–54 years of age  and 16–63 years of age , respectively, with no elderly cases, such as our patient.
While the cause of progression of FNH in our patient remains unclear, we reported a very rare case in which FNH nodules increased in size and number in an elderly man.
We reported a valuable case involving an elderly male patient with FNH who was observed from a time in which liver mass was observed on imaging. In the present case, FNH appeared and the size and number of the nodules increased during the observation period.
We thank Japan Medical Communication (https://www.japan-mc.co.jp/) for the English language editing
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest in association with the present study.
All procedures followed have been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.
Informed consent was obtained from the patient for being included in the study.
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