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Liver Transpl. 2002 Nov;8(11):1020-7.

Hepatocellular carcinoma: Can it be considered a controversial indication for liver transplantation in centers with high rates of hepatitis C?

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Department of Surgery, Hospital Universitario La Fe, Valencia, Spain.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is still considered a controversial indication for liver transplantation (LT), mainly because of long waiting times and underlying viral cirrhosis. The goal was to evaluate the outcome of LT in 104 patients with HCC and cirrhosis, mainly hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related, in a center with a short waiting time (median, 105 days). Four groups were formed according to the HCC and HCV status: HCV positive with HCC (group 1, n = 81), HCV negative with HCC (group 2, n = 23), HCV positive without HCC (group 3, n = 200), and HCV negative without HCC (group 4, n = 207). Predictive factors of tumor recurrence were demographics, tumor related (size or number of nodules, capsule, bilobar involvement, vascular or lymphatic invasion, clinical and pathologic TNM staging, pre-LT percutaneous ultrasound-guided ethanol injection or transarterial chemoembolization, alpha-fetoprotein levels), donor and surgery related, and year of transplantation. The same variables and "tumor recurrence (yes/no)" were applied to evaluate the effect on survival. The median follow up was 29 months (range, 0 to 104 months). Patient survival was 70% at 1 year and 59% at 5 years for group 1, 87% at 1 year and 77% at 5 years for group 2, 81% at 1 year and 64% at 5 years for group 3, and 88% at 1 year and 77% at 5 years for group 4 (P =.013). Survival was significantly lower in patients with HCC than in those without (74% and 63% versus 85% and 70%, at 1 and 5 years, respectively; P =.05). The causes of death in those with and without HCC were tumor recurrence (24%) and recurrent HCV (8%) versus sepsis (34%) and recurrent HCV (14%). HCC recurrence occurred in 12 patients (11.5%) at a median of 14 months (range, 3 to 60 months) with a probability increasing from 8% at 1 year to 16% at 5 years. In patients with HCC, tumor recurrence was associated with vascular invasion (P =.0004) by multivariate analysis; variables predictive of survival were donor old age (P =.01), viral-related etiology (P =.02), and tumor recurrence (P =.001). Although LT still remains an adequate indication for HCC in centers with high prevalence of HCV infection and short waiting times, both tumor and HCV-related recurrent diseases hamper significantly the outcomes of these patients.

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