PURPOSE: To elucidate the causes of various enhancement patterns of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). MATERIALS AND METHODS: Computed tomographic (CT) scans of 68 surgically resected HCCs (62 patients) were obtained 45 seconds and 6 minutes after administration of contrast material. These scans were compared with angiographic and histopathologic findings. RESULTS: On the early images, 24 HCCs (35%) were hypoattenuating, 33 were totally or partially hyperattenuating (48%), and 11 were isoattenuating (16%) compared to adjacent liver. On the delayed images, 55 HCCs (81%) were hypoattenuating and 13 (19%) were isoattenuating. Twenty-nine of the 48 very hypervascular or hypervascular tumors (60%) were hyperattenuating or partially hyperattenuating at early CT. Sixteen of the 20 slightly hypervascular or hypovascular tumors (80%) were isoattenuating or hypoattenuating. CONCLUSION: Although there was relatively good agreement between tumor vascularity and enhancement pattern (60% correlation for hypervascular tumors, 80% correlation for hypovascular tumors), hyperattenuation of the large HCCs (≥5 cm) at CT appeared to be a function of dilated sinusoids within the tumor (peliotic changes) as well as vascularity. In patients with advanced cirrhosis, hypovascular HCCs could be hyperattenuating at CT.
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