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Focal nodular hyperplasia

Sanjiv Chopra, MD, MACP
Section Editor
Bruce A Runyon, MD
Deputy Editor
Kristen M Robson, MD, MBA, FACG


Focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) is a non-malignant hepatic tumor that is not of vascular origin. In one autopsy series of 96,625 patients, 8 percent of non-hemangiomatous lesions were FNH, representing 66 percent of all benign non-hemangiomatous lesions seen between 1918 and 1982 [1]. In large retrospective studies of patients referred for ultrasound and multidetector computed tomography, the prevalence of focal nodular hyperplasia was 0.2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively [2,3].

FNH is seen in both sexes and throughout the age spectrum, although it is found predominantly in women (in a ratio of 8 or 9:1) between the ages of 20 and 50 years [4]. FNH comprises up to 2 percent of liver tumors in children [5].

This topic review will focus on the pathogenesis, clinical manifestations and management of FNH. An approach to patients presenting with a focal liver lesion is discussed separately. (See "Solid liver lesions: Differential diagnosis and evaluation".)


FNH has various labels: solitary hyperplastic nodule, hepatic hamartoma, focal cirrhosis, hamartomatous cholangiohepatoma, and hepatic pseudotumor. This profusion of terms epitomizes the confusion surrounding our understanding of the pathogenesis of the many conditions in which nodules of benign appearing hepatocytes are found. The International Working Party of the World Congresses of Gastroenterology proposed a standardized nomenclature in 1994, which placed FNH in the group of regenerative nodules, as opposed to dysplastic or neoplastic nodules [6]. This fits well with our current understanding of the pathogenesis of FNH. The contention that this lesion is non-neoplastic has been bolstered by the reported polyclonal origin of the hepatocytes [7], although this is disputed by others [8].

Previously considered to be a hamartoma, a neoplasm, a response to ischemia or other injury, or a focal area of regeneration, FNH is now generally accepted to be a hyperplastic (regenerative) response to hyperperfusion by the characteristic anomalous arteries found in the center of these nodules [4,9,10]. Whether vascular injury is also involved is less clear, but FNH is occasionally supplied primarily by portal venous blood due to thrombosis of the anomalous central artery [11].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 21, 2017.
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