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Distinguishing Tumor From Bland Portal Vein Thrombus in Liver Transplant Candidates With Hepatocellular Carcinoma: the A‐VENA Criteria

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Differentiating tumor versus bland portal vein thrombosis (PVT) is essential in determining liver transplantation (LT) candidacy for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We aimed to evaluate radiographic and clinical features that could noninvasively distinguish tumor PVT from bland PVT in HCC patients. Of 467 patients with HCC listed for LT from 2004 to 2011, 59 (12.6%) had PVT and 12 of 59 (20.3%) were deemed malignant. When comparing tumor versus bland PVT, thrombus enhancement was seen in 100% versus 8.5%; venous expansion was seen in 91.7% versus 10.6%; neovascularity was seen in 58.3% versus 2.1%; and being adjacent to HCC or prior treatment site was seen in 100% versus 21.3% (all P < 0.001). Combining these 4 imaging characteristics with alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) >1000 ng/dL, the presence of ≥3 criteria best characterized tumor PVT with 100% sensitivity, 93.6% specificity, 80% positive predictive value, and 100% negative predictive value. No LT recipients with presumed bland PVT had macrovascular invasion on explant. There were no differences in post-LT survival or HCC recurrence with bland PVT versus no PVT. In conclusion, we proposed noninvasive criteria that could accurately differentiate tumor PVT from bland PVT called A-VENA, which is based on the presence of ≥3 of the following: AFP >1000 ng/dL; venous expansion; thrombus enhancement; neovascularity; and adjacent to HCC. Use of the A-VENA criteria can assist in standardizing the evaluation of PVT in patients with HCC being considered for LT.

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