Liver mass differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Maria Fernanda Villarreal, M.D. [2]; Dildar Hussain, MBBS [3]; Aditya Ganti M.B.B.S. [4]


Liver mass must be differentiated from the diseases that cause abdominal pain, pruritus, low-grade fever, and ascities such as angiomyolipoma, adenoma, borderline (high-grade dysplastic) nodule, cholangiocarcinoma, confluent fibrosis, focal nodular hyperplasia, focal fat sparing and deposit on liver, gallbladder cancer, hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, inflammatory pseudotumors, liver hemangioma, hepatoblastoma in children, pyogenic liver abscesses, pancreatic cancer, Stomach cancer.

Common Differential Diagnosis

Liver mass must be differentiated from the following diseases that cause abdominal pain, pruritus, low-grade fever, and ascities such as:[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][13][23][24][25][26][27]

Abbreviations: RUQ= Right upper quadrant of the abdomen, LUQ= Left upper quadrant, LLQ= Left lower quadrant, RLQ= Right lower quadrant, LFT= Liver function test, SIRS= Systemic inflammatory response syndrome, ERCP= Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, IV= Intravenous, N= Normal, AMA= Anti mitochondrial antibodies, LDH= Lactate dehydrogenase, GI= Gastrointestinal, CXR= Chest X ray, IgA= Immunoglobulin A, IgG= Immunoglobulin G, IgM= Immunoglobulin M, CT= Computed tomography, PMN= Polymorphonuclear cells, ESR= Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, CRP= C-reactive protein, TS= Transferrin saturation, SF= Serum Ferritin, SMA= Superior mesenteric artery, SMV= Superior mesenteric vein, ECG= Electrocardiogram

Disease Clinical manifestations Diagnosis Comments
Symptoms Signs
Abdominal Pain Fever Rigors and chills Nausea or vomiting Jaundice Constipation Diarrhea Weight loss GI bleeding Hypo-


Guarding Rebound Tenderness Bowel sounds Lab Findings Imaging
Hepatocellular carcinoma/Metastasis RUQ + + + + + + + + +
  • Normal
  • Hyperactive if obstruction present

Other symptoms:

Cholangiocarcinoma RUQ + + + + + Normal
  • Predisposes to pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic carcinoma MidEpigastric + + + + + Normal

Skin manifestations may include:

Focal nodular hyperplasia Diffuse ± ± + + Normal
  • Open biopsy if diagnosis can not be established
Disease Abdominal Pain Fever Rigors and chills Nausea or vomiting Jaundice Constipation Diarrhea Weight loss GI bleeding Hypo-


Guarding Rebound Tenderness Bowel sounds Lab Findings Imaging Comments
Gallbladder cancer Midepigastric + + + + Normal
Liver hemangioma Intermittent RUQ + + Normal
  • Abnormal LFTs
Liver abscess RUQ + + + + Normal
  • US
  • CT
Cirrhosis RUQ+Bloating + + + + Normal US
  • Stigmata of liver disease
  • Cruveilhier- Baumgarten murmur
Inflammatory lesions RUQ ± + + Normal US
  • Nodular,shrunken or coarse liver
  • Stigmata of liver disease


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