Active surveillance (AS) is one of the treatment methods for patients with small renal masses (SRMs; <4 cm), including renal cell carcinomas (RCCs). However, some small RCCs may exhibit aggressive neoplastic behaviors and metastasize. Little is known about imaging biomarkers capable of identifying potentially aggressive small RCCs. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CECT) often detects collateral vessels arising from neoplastic angiogenesis in RCCs. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the association between SRM differential diagnoses and prognoses, and the detection of collateral vessels using CECT.
A total of 130 consecutive patients with pathologically confirmed non-metastatic SRMs (fat-poor angiomyolipomas [fpAMLs; n = 7] and RCCs [n = 123]) were retrospectively enrolled. Between 2011 and 2019, SRM diagnoses in these patients were confirmed after biopsy or surgical resection. All RCCs were surgically resected. Regardless of diameter, a collateral vessel (CV) was defined as any blood vessel connecting the tumor from around the kidney using CECT. First, we analyzed the role of CV-detection in differentiating between fpAML and RCC. Then, we evaluated the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV), and accuracy of RCC diagnosis based on CV-detection using CECT. We also assessed the prognostic value of CV-detection using the Fisher exact test, and Kaplan-Meier method and the log-rank test.
The sensitivity, specificity, PPV, NPV, and accuracy of CV-detection for the diagnosis of small RCCs was 48.5%, 45.5%, 100%, 100%, and 9.5% respectively. Five of 123 (4.1%) patients with RCC experienced recurrence. CV-detection using CECT was the only significant factor associated with recurrence (p = 0.0177). Recurrence-free survival (RFS) was significantly lower in patients with CV compared with in those without CV (5-year RFS 92.4% versus 100%, respectively; p = 0.005). In addition, critical review of the CT images revealed the CVs to be continuous with the venous vessels around the kidney.
The detection of CVs using CECT is useful for differentiating between small fpAMLs and RCCs. CV-detection may also be applied as a predictive parameter for small RCCs prone to recurrence after surgical resection. Moreover, AS may not be suitable for small RCCs with CVs.