Hepatic infarction is an extremely rare situation because the liver has a dual blood supply from the hepatic artery and portal vein. Hepatic infarction can occur when there is both hepatic arterial and portal vein flow compromise but most cases are due to acute portal venous flow compromise 11.
Most cases are seen after liver transplantation or hepatobiliary surgery. Non-transplant cases are mostly caused by 1,2:
- hepatic artery occlusion due to
- infarction without hepatic artery occlusion is mainly caused by
Clinically, these patients present with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and abnormal liver function tests 2. Most of the time, infarction is a peripherally located wedge-shaped area, however it can be centrally or round or oval shape 2.
- acute stage
- an ill-defined hypoechoic area with indistinct border
- gas within sterile infarcted zone can be seen 2,3
- chronic stage
- infarcted area becomes anechoic and cystic with distinct borders
Differentiation between gas within sterile infarcted area and abscess formation by imaging is impossible and fine needle aspiration is needed 2.
Typically infarction presents as an ill-defined wedge-shaped area of hypoattenuation which is mostly peripheral without mass-effect on adjacent structures in post-contrast images 4,5.
On MRI imaging, regions of hepatic infarction appears as hypointense lesion on T1 imaging, with hyperintensity on T2 imaging 6.
General imaging differential considerations include:
- focal hepatic steatosis: focal fatty infiltration also lacks mass effect, however vessels are seen crossing through the lesion
- hepatic abscess: typically shows mass effect on adjacent structures and ring-enhancement while hepatic infarction lacks mass-effect and any enhancement
- true hepatic masses: both mass effect and enhancement differentiate from hepatic infarction, and the clinical scenario is different
- 1. Peterson IM, Neumann CH. Focal hepatic infarction with bile lake formation. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1984;142 (6): 1155-6. doi:10.2214/ajr.142.6.1155 - Pubmed citation
- 2. Lev-Toaff AS, Friedman AC, Cohen LM et-al. Hepatic infarcts: new observations by CT and sonography. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1987;149 (1): 87-90. doi:10.2214/ajr.149.1.87 - Pubmed citation
- 3. Doppman JL, Dunnick NR, Girton M et-al. Bile duct cysts secondary to liver infarcts: report of a case and experimental production by small vessel hepatic artery occlusion. Radiology. 1979;130 (1): 1-5. Pubmed citation
- 4. Zissin R, Yaffe D, Fejgin M et-al. Hepatic infarction in preeclampsia as part of the HELLP syndrome: CT appearance. Abdom Imaging. 1999;24 (6): 594-6. Pubmed citation
- 5. Holbert BL, Baron RL, Dodd GD. Hepatic infarction caused by arterial insufficiency: spectrum and evolution of CT findings. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1996;166 (4): 815-20. doi:10.2214/ajr.166.4.8610556 - Pubmed citation
- 6. Boll DT, Merkle EM. Diffuse liver disease: strategies for hepatic CT and MR imaging. Radiographics. 2009;29 (6): 1591-614. Radiographics (full text) - doi:10.1148/rg.296095513 - Pubmed citation
- 7. Adler DD, Glazer GM, Silver TM. Computed tomography of liver infarction. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1984;142 (2): 315-8. doi:10.2214/ajr.142.2.315 - Pubmed citation
- 8. Giovine S, Pinto A, Crispano S et-al. Retrospective study of 23 cases of hepatic infarction: CT findings and pathological correlations. Radiol Med. 2006;111 (1): 11-21. Pubmed citation
- 9. Smith GS, Birnbaum BA, Jacobs JE. Hepatic infarction secondary to arterial insufficiency in native livers: CT findings in 10 patients. Radiology. 1998;208 (1): 223-9. Pubmed citation
- 10. Kronthal AJ, Fishman EK, Kuhlman JE et-al. Hepatic infarction in preeclampsia. Radiology. 1991;177 (3): 726-8. Pubmed citation
- 11. CT of the Acute Abdomen. Springer. ISBN:3540892311. Read it at Google Books - Find it at Amazon