Survival after Liver Transplantation for Hepatocellular Carcinoma
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BACKGROUND: Selection criteria for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) suitable for liver transplantation (LT) include tumor size and number and vascular invasion. There has been a recent trend to expand the transplant criteria for HCC. We reviewed our experience to determine survival following LT based on tumor characteristics.
METHODS: A retrospective analysis was performed on 72 patients with HCC who underwent LT between 1985 and July 2002. The Milan criteria were applied for LT candidacy for HCCs that were deemed unresectable from anatomical considerations and/or the severity of underlying cirrhosis. Patients were divided into four groups: group 1: patients with known HCC who satisfied the selection criteria (n = 22); group 2: patients with known HCC that exceeded the criteria (n = 17); group 3: patients with incidental HCC found at pathological examination of the explant (n = 33); group 4: contemporary LT recipients without HCC (n = 935).
RESULTS: In the known HCC group, the interval between listing as status 2 and transplantation was 72.2 +/- 133.6 days (median 23 days). Three-year patient survival was 80.2% in group 1, 35.8% in group 2, 63.2% in group 3, and 81.5% in group 4. In group 2 patients, the tumors were significantly larger, had more nodules, and were more often bilobar. In group 3, five (15%) exceeded the criteria mainly because of tumor size and four patients died within 3 years post-LT (three from tumor recurrence).
CONCLUSION: Liver transplantation for HCC yields acceptable survival in early-stage tumors, particularly if transplanted soon after listing. Long-term survival was inferior in patients with multiple tumors and tumors that were greater than 5 cm in diameter.