Macrovesicular Hepatic Steatosis in Living Related Liver Donors: Correlation between CT and Histologic Findings

Piyaporn Limanond, Steven S. Raman, Charles Lassman, James Sayre, R. Mark Ghobrial, Ronald W. Busuttil, Sammy Saab, David S.K. Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

309 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To assess degree of macrovesicular steatosis with unenhanced computed tomography (CT) and correlate it with histologic findings in potential donors for living related liver transplantation. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty-two candidates underwent unenhanced CT within 4 weeks of core liver biopsy. An experienced liver pathologist, blinded to both CT and surgical findings, retrospectively reviewed biopsy specimens and determined degree of macrovesicular steatosis. A radiologist blinded to histologic grading calculated mean hepatic attenuation in each donor liver by averaging 25 region-of-interest (ROI) measurements on five sections (five ROIs per section). Mean splenic attenuation was calculated with three separate ROI measurements. Liver attenuation index (LAI) was derived and defined as the difference between mean hepatic and mean splenic attenuation. Body mass index (BMI) was determined for each patient. Linear regression analysis was used to correlate degree of macrovesicular steatosis with both LAI and BMI. RESULTS: LAI correctly predicted degree of macrovesicular steatosis in 38 (90%) of 42 cases. In four of four livers, LAI below -10 HU correlated with greater than 30% macrovesicular steatosis (unacceptable for liver transplantation). In nine of 11 livers, LAI was between -10 and 5 HU and correctly predicted 6%-30% steatosis (relative contraindication). In two of 11 cases, LAI overestimated degree of hepatic steatosis. LAI above 5 HU correctly predicted 0%-5% steatosis in 25 of 27 livers. In two of 27 cases, parenchymal hemosiderin deposition led to an increase in LAI into the normal range, despite mild histologically confirmed steatosis. Degree of histologic macrovesicular steatosis correlated well with LAI (r = 0.92) and marginally with BMI (r = 0.45). Of 27 potential donors with normal livers at CT and acceptable LAI levels, four (15%) were deemed poor donor candidates because core biopsy revealed subtle hepatic necrosis and nonspecific hepatitis. CONCLUSION: Although unenhanced CT quantifies the degree of macrovesicular steatosis relatively well, it may preclude a liver biopsy only in a small percentage of potential donors with low LAI (unacceptable degree of steatosis). Core liver biopsy is still necessary in the majority of donors with normal LAI to identify those with both fatty liver and coexistent hemosiderin deposition or radiologically occult diffuse liver diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-280
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004


  • Liver, CT
  • Liver, fatty
  • Liver, transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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