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What Is a Focal Lesion in the Liver?

Updated April 17, 2017

Lesions are a common occurrence in the liver, and the prognoses of focal liver lesions vary.

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The term "lesion" is broad and includes any wound, sore, ulcer, tumour or other tissue damage of an organ. A focal lesion in the liver refers to one area of tissue damage identified on the liver that has varying significance depending on the patient's health condition and a variety of other factors.


The diagnosis of a focal liver lesion can be narrowed down by a variety of factors, including age, gender, use of birth control pills or hormone medications, travel history, and the presence of cirrhosis, hepatitis, or other liver disease, states the Medscape website. These considerations are important in evaluating the cause and significance of the lesion.


In many cases, a liver lesion is detected incidentally, during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). Unless the patient has blood test results that imply severe liver disease, biopsy of a focal lesion is typically unnecessary.

Cause for Concern

Patients with viral hepatitis, cirrhosis or severe alcoholism should have a biopsy performed for diagnosis of a liver lesion, according to M.S. Campbell and K.R. Reddy of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, because these patients are at high risk for liver cancer, and the lesion could be the first cancerous tumour growth.

Benign Lesion Types

The two main classifications of benign (noncancerous) lesions are solid and cystic (meaning that the lesions are fluid filled). Within these types, the subtypes include hemangiomas (the most common, according to the California Pacific Medical Center), focal nodular hypoplasia, focal fatty change cysts and bile duct cysts.

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About the Author

Isobel Washington has been a freelance journalist since 2007. Washington's work first surfaced in Europe, where she served as a restaurant critic and journalist for "LifeStyles" magazine. Her love of travel and culture inspired her first novel, which is currently underway. Washington has a 10-year career in marketing communication and holds a Bachelor of Science degree.

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