Differential Diagnosis of Complex Cystic Renal Mass Using Multiphase Computerized Tomography

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We evaluated the additional usefulness of multiphase computerized tomography for improving the differential diagnosis of cystic renal masses by the Bosniak classification.

Materials and Methods:

We reviewed the records of 104 patients with Bosniak class II (29 or 27.8%), III (38 or 36.5%) and IV (37 or 35.7%) cystic renal masses managed surgically between 1997 and 2007. On preoperative multiphase computerized tomography enhancement differences in HU between the precontrast and corticomedullary phases were measured at the highest enhancement area to correlate with pathological findings.


Renal cell carcinoma was diagnosed in 56 patients (53.8%). Of the tumors 35 (62.5%) showed clear cell histology. According to Bosniak class 3 (11.5%), 21 (55.2%) and 32 (86.4%) class II to IV lesions, respectively, were diagnosed as renal cell carcinoma. For renal cell carcinoma and benign cysts mean HU at the precontrast phase was similar (31.5 and 32.4 HU, respectively), while renal cell carcinoma showed a significantly higher measurement at the corticomedullary phase (112.9 vs 59.8 HU, p <0.0001). To differentiate renal cell carcinoma a corticomedullary phase minus precontrast phase value of greater than 42 HU was predictive with 97.1% sensitivity and 85.7% specificity (area under the ROC curve 0.966). In a multiple regression model the corticomedullary phase minus precontrast phase value and the Bosniak classification independently determined malignant pathological findings (corticomedullary phase minus precontrast phase greater than 42 HU HR 31.541, 95% CI 8.320-119.563 and Bosniak class HR 5.545, 95% CI 2.153-14.279, each p <0.0001).


In cases of complex cystic renal masses diagnostic accuracy can be improved to differentiate renal cell carcinoma by combining Bosniak class and enhancement differences measured on multiphase computerized tomography between precontrast and maximal enhancement phases. This would help determine the need for and the method of surgical treatment.

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