Hyperattenuating renal masses: Etiologies, pathogenesis, and imaging evaluation

Stuart G. Silverman, Koenraad J. Mortele, Kemal Tuncali, Masahiro Jinzaki, Edmund S. Cibas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


Some renal masses have higher attenuation than the surrounding renal parenchyma at computed tomography (CT). Their hyperattenuation is usually the result of proteinaceous fluid or densely packed cells. Most hyperattenuating renal masses are benign hemorrhagic or proteinaceous cysts. However, solid enhancing hyperattenuating renal masses may have malignant as well as benign causes. Possible malignant causes include renal cell carcinoma and lymphoma; benign causes include angiomyolipoma with minimal fat. It is important to identify the cause of a hyperattenuating renal mass so as to avoid unnecessary surgical resection or ablation. CT may be useful for diagnosing benign hyperattenuating renal cysts, hematomas, and vascular anomalies that appear masslike. However, some solid, enhancing, hyperattenuating masses cannot be diagnosed confidently with CT alone: Small (≤3-cm-diameter), homogeneously enhancing, hyperattenuating renal masses depicted on CT images may be either benign angiomyolipomas with minimal fat or renal cell carcinomas. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging may be helpful for differentiating between angiomyolipomas with minimal fat and clear cell renal cell carcinomas; however, differentiation between angiomyolipomas with minimal fat and papillary renal cell carcinomas often is not possible on the basis of MR imaging. In such cases, a percutaneous biopsy may be useful for diagnosis. If the results of MR imaging and percutaneous biopsy are not definitive, surgery is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1131-1143
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jul

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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