BACKGROUND: Transplantable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) represents a highly debated issue due to the overlap between indications for liver resection (LR) and transplantation (LT) in patients suitable for both.
STUDY DESIGN: Between January 2000 and December 2012, five hundred and twenty-four transplantable patients affected by HCC were identified among resected patients. Two regression models were constructed to classify patients into 2 groups pre-low and pre-high risk based on preoperative variables and then to reclassify pre-low-risk patients according to postoperative variables into either post-low or post-high-risk. Additionally, a cohort of patients with comparable baseline characteristics who underwent LT were similarly classified into pre-low and pre-high-risk groups and compared with the resected patients in terms of survival.
RESULTS: Cirrhosis, aspartate transaminase, α-fetoprotein, Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score, number of nodules, and diameter of the largest nodule were preoperatively found to be significantly related to overall survival post-LR. Microvascular invasion and satellites were selected to reclassify prognosis in the resulting preoperative low-risk group into post-high risk. The converted group (post-high) demonstrated the same 5-year survival as the pre-high group. Patients undergoing LT had better survival overall than those undergoing LR, with the exception of pre-low LT and post-low LR (confirmed low-risk LR) who had similar outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS: The new models were strongly predictive of patients' likelihood of survival after LR for HCC on liver cirrhosis. Liver transplantation offers a survival advantage over LR, except in low-risk groups where both modalities might be comparable.