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Ann Surg. 2009 Nov;250(5):738-46. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181bd582b.

Liver resection for transplantable hepatocellular carcinoma: long-term survival and role of secondary liver transplantation.

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  • 1Department of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Hôpital Henri Mondor-Université Paris 12, 94000, Créteil, France.



Liver transplantation (LT) is the best theoretical treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) fulfilling the Milan criteria (TNM stages 1-2). However, LT is limited by organ availability and tumor progression on the waiting list. Liver resection (LR) may represent an alternative in these patients. The aim of this study is to report the results of LR in transplantable patients.


From 1990 to 2007, 274 patients underwent liver resection for HCC. Sixty-seven (24%) met the Milan criteria on pathologic study of the specimen. Ten were TNM stage 1 and 57 stage 2 and all had chronic liver disease. There were 56 men and 11 women with a mean age of 63. LR included 12 major hepatectomies, 14 bisegmentectomies, 14 segmentectomies, and 27 nonanatomic resections. Thirty-seven resections were performed through a laparoscopic approach and there were only 8 open resections since 1998.


Three patients died postoperatively (4.5%), none after laparoscopic resection. Morbidity rate was 34%. After a mean follow-up of 4.8 years, 36 patients (54%) developed intrahepatic tumor recurrence. Twenty-eight (77%) were again transplantable of which 16 (44%) were transplanted. Two additional patients underwent pre-emptive LT (ie before recurrence). When considering 44 patients <65 years at the time of resection (ie upper age limit for LT), the rates of recurrence, transplantable recurrence, and intention to treat salvage transplantation (patients with transplantable recurrence actually transplanted) were 59%, 80%, and 61%, respectively. Overall and disease free 5-year survival rates were 72% and 44%, respectively. Survival was not influenced by TNM stage 1 or 2, AFP level, tumor differentiation, or the presence microscopic vascular invasion. Survival after salvage LT was 70% and 87% when calculated from the date of LT and LR, respectively.


LR for small solitary HCC in compensated cirrhosis yields an overall survival rate comparable to upfront LT. Despite a significant recurrence rate, close imaging monitoring after resection allows salvage LT in 61% of patients with recurrence on intention to treat analysis.

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