Hepatic Adenoma: Risks, Diagnosis, and Management


Hepatic Adenoma: Risks, Diagnosis, and Management

Hepatic adenoma, also known as liver adenoma, is a rare but important benign tumor of the liver, which is primarily associated with certain risk factors, including the use of oral contraceptives, anabolic steroids, and certain metabolic conditions. This article explores the nature of hepatic adenomas, their potential risks, methods of diagnosis, and the current approaches to management and treatment.

What is Hepatic Adenoma?

Hepatic adenoma is a benign tumor that originates from hepatocytes, the main cell type of the liver. It is most commonly found in individuals who are on long-term oral contraceptive use or who use anabolic steroids. The condition is more prevalent in women than in men, particularly affecting those between the ages of 30 and 50.

Risk Factors

The major risk factors for developing hepatic adenoma include:

  • Hormonal Influence: Long-term use of oral contraceptives and anabolic steroids significantly increases the risk.
  • Gender and Age: Women, especially those under the age of 50, are at higher risk.
  • Genetic Conditions: Conditions such as Glycogen Storage Disease type I have been linked to a higher incidence of hepatic adenomas.

Symptoms and Complications

Hepatic adenomas are often asymptomatic and may be discovered incidentally during imaging for unrelated reasons. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include abdominal pain, a palpable mass in the upper right abdomen, and, in severe cases, bleeding if the adenoma ruptures—a potentially life-threatening complication.


The diagnosis of hepatic adenoma typically involves a combination of imaging and biopsy. Imaging studies such as ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI are utilized to visualize the liver’s structure and identify the presence of adenomas. A biopsy may be performed to definitively diagnose the adenoma by examining the liver tissue under a microscope.

Management and Treatment

Management strategies for hepatic adenoma depend on the size of the tumor, symptoms, and the presence of complications. Small, asymptomatic adenomas may simply be monitored over time with regular imaging to check for growth or changes in the tumor. For larger or symptomatic adenomas, or those that carry a risk of rupture, surgical removal may be necessary.

For patients who are identified with hepatic adenomas, it is advisable to cease the use of oral contraceptives or anabolic steroids if these are contributing factors. Moreover, regular follow-up and monitoring are critical to ensure that the adenoma does not progress.

Below, the management strategies are elaborated based on the size of the adenoma.

Small Adenomas (Less than 5 cm)

For hepatic adenomas smaller than 5 cm that are asymptomatic and show no signs of growth or bleeding, conservative management is often recommended. This typically includes:

  • Regular Monitoring: Periodic imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI are performed to monitor the size and stability of the adenoma. Dr. Zavos might recommend imaging every 6 to 12 months to assess any changes in the tumor.
  • Modification of Risk Factors: Patients are advised to discontinue any oral contraceptives or anabolic steroids, as these can contribute to the growth of hepatic adenomas.
  • Clinical Observation: Routine follow-up appointments are essential to monitor for any new symptoms that might suggest complications such as pain or intra-abdominal bleeding.

Medium Adenomas (5 cm to 10 cm)

Hepatic adenomas that fall into the medium size range might require a more proactive approach, particularly if they exhibit any signs of growth or symptoms:

  • Enhanced Surveillance: More frequent imaging and clinical evaluations may be necessary to closely monitor the adenoma’s behavior.
  • Medical Intervention: In some cases, medication to manage symptoms or slow the growth of the adenoma may be considered.
  • Surgical Consultation: Dr. Zavos might refer the patient for a surgical evaluation to discuss the potential benefits and risks of removing the adenoma if it shows signs of increased activity or poses a risk of rupture.

Large Adenomas (Greater than 10 cm)

Large hepatic adenomas are at a higher risk of causing symptoms and complications, including rupture and hemorrhage, and generally require surgical intervention:

  • Surgical Removal: Surgery is often recommended to prevent the serious complications associated with large adenomas. The type of surgery can vary from minimally invasive techniques to more extensive procedures, depending on the adenoma’s location and the patient’s condition.
  • Preoperative Assessment: Detailed preoperative imaging and possibly liver function tests are conducted to plan the surgical approach effectively.
  • Postoperative Monitoring: After surgery, patients will need close monitoring to manage any complications and ensure proper liver function.

Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE)

TACE is a minimally invasive procedure that combines the local delivery of chemotherapy with the embolization (blocking) of the blood vessels supplying a tumor. This dual approach allows for high concentrations of chemotherapy to be delivered directly to the tumor site while depriving the tumor of its blood supply, thereby enhancing the treatment’s effectiveness and minimizing systemic side effects.

Potential Application in Hepatic Adenoma

The use of TACE for hepatic adenoma is generally not a standard treatment approach due to the benign nature of these tumors and their typically slow growth rates. The primary treatment options for hepatic adenoma include surgical resection or careful observation, depending on the size, growth, symptoms, and risk of complications like bleeding. However, there are specific scenarios where TACE might be considered:

  • Risk of Surgery: In patients for whom surgery poses a high risk due to underlying medical conditions or in cases where the adenoma is in a technically challenging location that complicates surgical intervention, TACE might be considered as an alternative to manage the tumor.
  • Symptomatic Large Adenomas: For large hepatic adenomas that are causing symptoms or have a high risk of bleeding but are not ideal candidates for surgery, TACE may be considered to reduce the size or symptoms associated with the tumor.
  • Bridge to Surgery: Occasionally, TACE may be used to shrink the adenoma preoperatively, making a subsequent surgical procedure safer and potentially less extensive.

Expert Guidance and Consultation

As recommended by Dr. Christos Zavos, a board-certified gastroenterologist and hepatologist based in Thessaloniki, Greece, individuals who suspect they have hepatic adenoma or who have been diagnosed with this condition should seek expert medical advice. Dr. Zavos is equipped to provide comprehensive evaluations and treatment options tailored to each patient’s unique circumstances.

Patients are encouraged to connect with Dr. Zavos by sending a message through the contact form on peptiko.gr, calling at phone numbers (+30)-6976596988 and (+30)-2311283833, or by sending an email to czavos@ymail.com. Booking an appointment for a thorough consultation, either online or in-person at Dr. Zavos’s private office in Thessaloniki, ensures that patients receive the most informed guidance and care for managing their liver health.


While hepatic adenoma is a benign liver tumor, it requires careful attention due to its potential to cause significant complications. Early detection and management, guided by a specialist in gastroenterology and hepatology, are essential to preventing adverse outcomes and maintaining liver health. Dr. Christos Zavos remains committed to providing expert care and advice to patients worldwide, helping them navigate the complexities of liver conditions with confidence and expertise.

Last update: 2 May 2024, 08:25


Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist, Thessaloniki

PhD at Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

PGDip at Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, The Netherlands

Ex President, Hellenic H. pylori & Microbiota Study Group