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Ann Surg. 2001 May;233(5):652-9.

Liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, and the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.



To analyze patient and tumor characteristics that influence patient survival to select patients who would most benefit from liver transplantation.


The selection of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) for liver transplantation remains controversial.


One hundred twelve patients with nonfibrolamellar HCC who underwent a liver transplant from 1985 to 2000 were reviewed. Survival was calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method, with differences in outcome assessed using the log-rank procedure. Multivariate analysis was then performed using a Cox regression model.


Overall patient survival rates were 78%, 63%, and 57% at 1, 3, and 5 years, respectively. Patients infected with the hepatitis B virus had a worse 5-year survival than those who were not (43% vs. 64%), with most deaths being attributed to recurrent hepatitis B. However, patients with hepatitis B virus who underwent more recent transplants using antiviral therapy fared as well as those who were negative for the virus, showing a 5-year survival rate of 77%. Patients with vascular invasion by tumor had a worse 5-year survival than patients without vascular invasion (33% vs. 68%). Vascular invasion, tumor size greater than 5 cm, and poorly differentiated tumor grade were predictors of tumor recurrence by univariate analysis; however, only vascular invasion remained significant on multivariate analysis: the rate of tumor recurrence at 5 years was 65% in patients with vascular invasion and only 4% for patients without vascular invasion.


For well-selected patients with HCC, liver transplantation in the current era can achieve equivalent results to transplantation for nonmalignant indications. Vascular invasion is an indicator of high risk of tumor recurrence but is difficult to detect before transplantation.

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