1Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
2Department of Surgery, Wexner Medical Center, The James Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most prevalent primary liver cancer, being the third most common cause of cancer-related death globally. HCC most frequently develops in the context of hepatic cirrhosis. HCC can manifest as various morphologic subtypes. Each pattern exhibits distinct behaviors in terms of imaging features, disease progression, response to therapy, and prognosis. While the nodular pattern is the most frequent subtype, infiltrative HCC is the least prevalent and makes up about 8%-20% of all HCC cases. Infiltrative HCC manifests as small tumor nodules that often spread across the entire liver or across a hepatic segment/lobe and is not identified as a focal tumor. On ultrasonography, infiltrative HCC presents as a markedly heterogeneous area with ill-defined echotexture, making it difficult to distinguish from background hepatic cirrhosis. On magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), infiltrating HCC typically manifests as a mild, poorly defined hepatic region with heterogeneous or homogenous aberrant signal intensity. Specifically, on T1-weighted MRI scans, infiltrating HCC frequently appears as largely hypointense and typically homogenous and mildly to moderately hyperintense on T2-weighted imaging. Infiltrative HCC frequently lacks a clearly defined boundary on cross-sectional imaging and can consequently fade into the background of the cirrhotic liver. As a result, infiltrating HCC is frequently not discovered until an advanced stage and has an associated poor prognosis. Thus, understanding imaging features associated with infiltrative HCC diagnosis is crucial for abdominal radiologists to ensure effective and timely care. We herein review imaging characteristics of infiltrative HCC.