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Unique diagnostic challenge in surgery: hepatic abscess versus malignancy


A man in his 30s had presented with a history of abdominal pain, vomiting and high-grade fever. He had tender hepatomegaly with peritonism in the upper abdomen. Investigations revealed a neutrophilic leucocytosis, and contrast-enhanced CT had shown several well-defined peripherally enhancing thick-walled cystic lesions with non-enhancing centres throughout the liver suggestive of pyogenic liver abscess, treated initially with antibiotics. However, ultrasonography-guided fine needle aspiration revealed atypical neoplastic cells, and a trucut biopsy showed squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). He developed acute shortness of breath. CT pulmonary angiogram confirmed pulmonary thromboembolism (PTE). Incidentally, here we saw a solitary nodule in the right middle lobe, probably a neoplastic lesion. His condition deteriorated rapidly secondary to PTE and died. A pathological review was positive for CK7, p40, p63 and CK19 confirming SCC. We concluded the primary was a pulmonary SCC with multiple hepatic metastases. Hepatic metastases can mimic an abscess; trucut biopsy with immunohistochemistry was critical for a definitive diagnosis.

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatic cancer
  • Pathology
  • Interventional radiology

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