Aims: According to the last WHO classification, steatohepatitic hepatocellular carcinoma (SH-HCC) is recognized as a distinct HCC subtype, even though a consensual definition is still lacking. The objectives of the study were to carefully describe the morphological features of SH-HCC and evaluate its impact on prognosis.

Methods and results: We conducted a single-centre retrospective study including 297 surgically resected HCC. Pathological features including SH criteria (steatosis, ballooning, Mallory-Denk bodies, fibrosis, and inflammation) were assessed. SH-HCC was defined by the presence of at least four of the five SH criteria and the SH component represented >50% of the tumour area. According to this definition, 39 (13%) HCC cases corresponded to SH-HCC and 30 cases (10%) corresponded to HCC with an SH component (<50%). SH criteria in SH-HCC and non-SH-HCC were distributed as follows: ballooning (100% versus 11%), fibrosis (100% versus 81%), inflammation (100% versus 67%), steatosis (92% versus 8%), and Mallory-Denk bodies (74% versus 3%). Inflammation markers (c-reactive protein [CRP] and serum amyloid A [SAA]) were significantly more expressed in SH-HCC compared to non-SH-HCC (82% versus 14%, P = <0.001). Five-year recurrence-free survival (RFS) and 5-year overall survival (OS) were similar for SH-HCC and non-SH-HCC (P = 0.413 and P = 0.866, respectively). The percentage of SH component does not impact OS and RFS.

Conclusion: We confirm in a large cohort the relatively high prevalence (13%) of SH-HCC. Ballooning is the most specific criteria for this subtype. The percentage of the SH component does not impact prognosis.