Hepatic Neoplasms in Children

Hepatic Neoplasms in Children

Ann M. Polcari

  • The liver is an intraperitoneal organ located below the diaphragm in the right upper quadrant (RUQ) of the abdomen, extending from the fourth to fifth rib to just below the costal margin (Figure 50.1).

  • It is covered almost entirely by Glisson capsule, a tough, fibrous sheath. The posterior surface has a “bare area” where the inferior vena cava (IVC) and gallbladder lie.

  • The liver has dual blood supply:

    • Hepatic system (25%) includes the hepatic artery, which originates from the celiac trunk.

    • Portal system (75%) includes the portal vein, which carries nutrient filled blood from the gastrointestinal system to the liver, as well as venous blood from the spleen.

  • Venous drainage from the liver is via the IVC.

  • The gallbladder is located on the posteroinferior surface of the liver. It holds bile, which is removed from the liver via the hepatic duct.

  • The “porta hepatis,” or the hepatoduodenal ligament, contains the portal vein posteriorly, hepatic artery medially, and common bile duct laterally.



  • Hepatic neoplasms in children are rare, comprising only 1% to 2% of all childhood cancers.1

  • Metastatic tumors (eg, Wilms tumor, lymphoma, neuroblastoma) to the liver are more common than primary hepatic tumors.2


  • Etiology varies by tumor type. Some are associated with genetic syndromes; many arise from de novo mutations.

  • Primary hepatic neoplasms in children can be identified as benign or malignant.

  • The benign tumors include (Table 50.1) the following:

    • Infantile hemangioendothelioma

    • Mesenchymal hamartoma

    • Focal nodular hyperplasia

    • Hepatocellular adenoma

  • The malignant lesions include (Table 50.2) the following:

    • Hepatoblastoma

    • Hepatocellular carcinoma

    • Undifferentiated embryonal carcinoma

    • Rhabdomyosarcoma of the biliary tree

Figure 50.1 Peritoneal and visceral relationships of liver. A, The liver is divided into right and left lobes by the falciform and coronary ligaments (anterior view, diaphragmatic surface). B, The posteroinferior aspect of the liver (visceral surface). (Reprinted with permission from Moore KL, Dalley AF, Agur AMR. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014.)

Clinical Presentation

Classic presentation: Clinical presentation also varies by the type of tumor (Tables 50.1 and 50.2), but symptoms are most often nonspecific and one must have a high level of suspicion.

  • Most pediatric hepatic neoplasms are almost always found incidentally on imaging.

  • Some tumors grow so rapidly that they present with a palpable mass in the RUQ, with nausea or vomiting due to local compressive symptoms.

  • RUQ pain and jaundice are also common.


  • Conservative management with serial ultrasound or CT imaging is appropriate for most benign, asymptomatic lesions.

  • Chemotherapy is appropriate for known-responsive lesions, which are neoadjuvant or adjuvant depending on the type of tumor.

Operative Intervention

Liver Resection

  • The Pretreatment Extent of Disease (PRETEXT) system was developed by the International Society of Pediatric Oncology on Childhood Liver Tumors (SIOPEL) group to identify suitable candidates for primary resection (Figure 50.2).3

TABLE 50.1 Benign Pediatric Liver Tumors

Infantile Hepatic Hemangioma (Also Termed “Infantile Hemangioendothelioma”)

Mesenchymal Hamartoma

Focal Nodular Hyperplasia

Hepatocellular Adenoma


Most common benign solid liver tumor in children

Age: <6 mo; almost all <2 mo

Gender: slight female predominance

Second most common benign pediatric tumor

Age: <2 y

Gender: male predominance

4%-10% of benign pediatric tumors

Age: 2-5 y

Gender: female predominance

Very rare—4% of all tumors in children

Age: >10 y

Gender: female predominance, especially those using oral contraceptives (OCPs)

Etiology and associations

Syndromes: Osler-Weber-Rendu, Klippel-Trenauney-Weber, Ehlers-Danlos, Beckwith-Wiedemann

Heterogeneous genetic causes

Liver trauma, hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome, possibly OCP use

Infants and young children: >50% associated with glycogen storage disease, Fanconi anemia, or tyrosinemia

Older children: OCP use, anabolic steroid use

Clinical presentation

  • May be asymptomatic

  • Classic complex: hepatomegaly, congestive heart failure (CHF), and anemia

  • Often with cutaneous hemangiomas

  • Neonates: Highoutput CHF with pulmonary hypertension

  • Older children: abdominal distension, ascites, with or without a palpable mass (ascites)

  • Nausea or vomiting due to compression

  • Typically asymptomatic

  • If symptomatic: abdominal pain, hepatomegaly, decreased appetite with weight loss and fatigue

  • Typically asymptomatic

  • May have intermittent abdominal pain

  • 10% present with acute abdominal pain due to hemorrhage into tumor

Laboratory findings

Anemia (50%), AFP may be elevated

AFP may be elevated

LFTs may be elevated


Best modality: MRI with contrast

Note: Biopsies are avoided owing to vascularity


  • Multiseptated, multicystic (fluid-filled) mass

  • R-sided predilection


CT with contrast will show early enhancement with central scar


  • CT with contrast shows multiple feeding vessels (differentiates from FNH)

  • May show areas of calcification or hemorrhage




  • May be solitary, multifocal (up to 25 lesions), or diffuse

  • Range from 1 to 13 cm


  • Layers of flat endothelial cells on a supporting fibrous stroma

  • GLUT-1 positive



  • Large, well-circumscribed, solitary lesion

  • 8-10 cm diameter


  • Mixture of bile ducts, liver cells, mesenchyme with dilated bile and lymphatic ducts



  • Well circumscribed, lobulated, unencapsulated

  • Single feeding artery with central stellate scar


  • Disorganized hepatocyte hyperplasia in nodules

  • Overexpression of ANGPT1 and 2



  • Solitary, unencapsulated


  • Large sheets of cells resembling normal hepatocytes separated by dilated vessels

  • No portal vessels or bile ducts



  • Some regress spontaneously after 1 y of age

  • Asymptomatic: Serial ultrasounds to monitor growth. Propranolol recently proposed

  • Symptomatic: Consider surgical resection or embolization

  • Transplant is last resort

  • Note: Monitor for resolution, malignant transformation has been reported

  • Spontaneous resolution is rare

  • Recommended therapy is excision and can be curative

  • Risk of development into undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma

  • Asymptomatic: Observation with serial ultrasound

  • Symptomatic, >5 cm, progression: biopsy followed by resection

  • No malignant potential

  • Remove offending agent (OCPs, anabolic steroids).

  • If stable, observe

  • Resection is definitive treatment

Data from Zheng H, Finn LS, Murray KF. Neoplasms of the liver. In: Wyllie R, Hyams JS, Kay M, eds. Pediatric Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2016:582-589.e4; Andrews WS. Lesions of the liver. In: Holcomb GW, Murphy JP, eds. Ashcraft’s Pediatric Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:895-914; and Sebire NJ, Ashworth M, Malone M, Jacques TS, Rogers BB, eds. Diagnostic Pediatric Surgical Pathology. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2010. Images reprinted with permission from Pizzo PA, Poplack DG. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2016; Sanders RC. Clinical Sonography: A Practical Guide. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2016; Fiser S. The ABSITE Review. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2017; Brant WE, Helms C. Fundamentals of Diagnostic Radiology. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2013; Husain AN, Stocker JT, Dehner LP. Stocker and Dehner’s Pediatric Pathology. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2016, Stocker JT, Dehner LP, Husain AN. Stocker and Dehner’s Pediatric Pathology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2011; and Rubin R, Strayer DS, Rubin R. Rubin’s Pathology. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2012.

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May 5, 2019 | Posted by in PEDIATRICS | Comments Off on Hepatic Neoplasms in Children
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