Sarcopenia as a predictor of survival in patients undergoing bland transarterial embolization for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma

on behalf of the Humanitas HCC Multidisciplinary Group¶

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Sarcopenia has been associated with lower overall survival in patients with cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) undergoing surgical resection, TACE, TARE, or transplantation. This monocentric study evaluated the prognostic significance of sarcopenia in patients affected by HCC who received bland transarterial embolization (TAE) therapy, by analyzing its impact on survival and treatment-related complications. All consecutive patients who underwent the 1st TAE between March 1st 2011 and July 1st 2019 in our Institution were retrospectively studied. To evaluate sarcopenia, the skeletal muscle index (SMI) was calculated by normalizing the cross-sectional muscle area at the level of L3 on an abdominal CT scan prior to embolization (cm2) by patient height (m2). SMI cut-off values for sarcopenia were considered ≤ 39 cm2/m2 for women and ≤55 cm2/m2 for men. Data about age, gender, body mass index (BMI), underlying liver disease, liver function, MELD score, Child-Pugh score, multifocal disease, performance status, previous interventions, length of stay (LOS), complications after the procedure, readmission rate within 30 days, survival time from TAE and total number and type of TAE received following the first procedure were collected. From 2011 to 2019, 142 consecutive patients underwent 305 TAEs. Observation time ranged from 1.4 to 100.5 months (median 20.1 SD = 22). Sarcopenia at baseline was present in 121 (85%) patients. Overall 87 (61.2%) patients died during followup with survival rates at 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year of 71%, 41%, 22%, 16% and 11% respectively. After multivariate analysis sarcopenia (HR = 2.22, p = 0.046), previous ablation/ resection (HR = 0.51, p = 0.005) and multifocal disease (HR = 1.84, p = 0.02) were associated with reduced survival. Sarcopenia did not influence the safety of TAE in terms of LOS (2 days vs 1.5 days, p = 0.2), early complications rate (8% vs 5%, p = 0.5) and readmission rate within 30 days (7% vs 5%, p = 0.74). Sarcopenia, estimated by the L3SMI method, is an emerging prognostic factor in patients with HCC undergoing bland TAE therapy as it is associated with increased mortality, without impairing the safety of the locoregional treatment. Measures to ameliorate the SMI, such as nutritional support and physical exercise, should be evaluated in clinical trials for HCC patients receiving liver embolization to determine their impact on overall survival.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0232371
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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