Korean J Radiol.  2021 Oct;22(10):1628-1639. 10.3348/kjr.2020.1341.

Should Threshold Growth Be Considered a Major Feature in the Diagnosis of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Using LI-RADS?

  • 1Department of Radiology, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


Based on the Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System version 2018 (LI-RADS, v2018), this study aimed to analyze LR-5 diagnostic performance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) when threshold growth as a major feature is replaced by a more HCC-specific ancillary feature, as well as the frequency of threshold growth in HCC and non-HCC malignancies and its association with tumor size.
Materials and Methods
This retrospective study included treatment-naive patients who underwent gadoxetate disodiumenhanced MRIs for focal hepatic lesions and surgery between January 2009 and December 2016. The frequency of major and ancillary features was evaluated for HCC and non-HCC malignancies, and the LR-category was assessed. Ancillary features that were significantly more prevalent in HCC were then used to either replace threshold growth or were added as additional major features, and the diagnostic performance of the readjusted LR category was compared to the LI-RADS v2018.
A total of 1013 observations were analyzed. Unlike arterial phase hyperenhancement, washout, or enhancing capsule which were more prevalent in HCCs than in non-HCC malignancies (521/616 vs. 18/58, 489/616 vs. 19/58, and 181/616 vs. 5/58, respectively; p < 0.001), threshold growth was more prevalent in non-HCC malignancies than in HCCs (11/23 vs. 17/119; p < 0.001). The mean size of non-HCC malignancies showing threshold growth was significantly smaller than that of non-HCC malignancies without threshold growth (22.2 mm vs. 42.9 mm, p = 0.040). Similar results were found for HCCs; however, the difference was not significant (26.8 mm vs. 33.1 mm, p = 0.184). Additionally, Fat-in-nodule was more frequent in HCCs than in non-HCC malignancies (99/616 vs. 2/58, p = 0.010). When threshold growth and fat-in-nodule were considered as ancillary and major features, respectively, LR-5 sensitivity (73.2% vs. 73.9%, p = 0.289) and specificity (98.2% vs. 98.5%, p > 0.999) were comparable to the LI-RADS v2018.
Threshold growth is not a significant diagnostic indicator of HCC and is more common in non-HCC malignancies. The diagnostic performance of LR-5 was comparable when threshold growth was recategorized as an ancillary feature and replaced by a more HCC-specific ancillary feature.


Liver neoplasms; Magnetic resonance imaging; Liver; Diagnosis
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