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Liver Transpl. 2013 Apr;19(4):411-9. doi: 10.1002/lt.23605. Epub 2013 Mar 17.

Treatment strategy for recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma: salvage transplantation, repeated resection, or radiofrequency ablation?

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Division of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, Hong Kong, China.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of salvage liver transplantation (SLT), repeated hepatic resection (RR), and repeated radiofrequency ablation (rRFA) for patients with postoperative tumor recurrence. The optimal treatment strategy for patients with recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. From January 1993 to September 2009, 532 patients underwent either hepatic resection or radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for HCC within the Milan criteria. In all, 219 patients experienced intrahepatic recurrence, and 87 were selected for SLT (n=19), RR (n=24), or rRFA (n=44). Their clinicopathological data were reviewed, and their survival outcomes were assessed with Kaplan-Meier methods. Seventy-four of 220 patients (33.6%) developed recurrent HCC within the Milan criteria. The median Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) scores for SLT, RR, and rRFA were 10.7, 7.2, and 8.3, respectively (P<0.001). The 1-, 3-, and 5-year tumor-free survival rates were 68.4%, 57.9%, and 57.9%, respectively, for SLT; 69.7%, 49.3%, and 49.3%, respectively, for RR; and 40.0%, 19.8%, and 10.6%, respectively, for rRFA (P=0.001). For recurrent HCC within the Milan criteria, the 1-, 3-, and 5-year tumor-free survival rates for SLT were all 60%; the corresponding rates were 70.2%, 48.0%, and 48.0% for RR and 41.0%, 20.3%, and 10.9% for RFA (P=0.004). After adjustments of the MELD score, the 5-year survival rates for SLT, RR, and rRFA were 50.0%, 48.0%, and 11.4%, respectively (P=0.003). A subgroup analysis showed that SLT and RR led to comparable survival outcomes, but both treatments led to significantly better survival outcomes than rRFA (P<0.001). In conclusion, SLT is an efficacious treatment for patients with recurrent HCC and should be considered when RR is not feasible.

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