BACKGROUND: Liver transplantation (LT) is a well-established procedure for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) within the Milan criteria. Yttrium-90 microspheres radioembolization (Y90-RE) has shown to be an effective and safe treatment of primary liver tumors. We retrospectively evaluate the efficacy of the Y90-RE in patients with HCC prior to LT. METHODS: From January 2002 to December 2015, 365 patients were transplanted at the San Camillo Hospital Center. One hundred forty-three patients were transplanted for HCC, and in 22 cases the patients were treated with Y90-RE before LT. RESULTS: Three patients were treated with Y90-RE within the Milan criteria, and 19 patients were out of criteria before Y90-RE. Four patients had an increasing MELD score between Y90-RE and LT. On the other hand, alpha-fetoprotein decreases after Y90-RE treatment in all cases. No patient death was observed in Y90-RE procedure or at LT. In 78.9 % of cases, a successful downstaging was observed, and in 100 % of cases bridging was achieved. From Y90-RE treatment overall survival was 43.9 months. From LT, overall mean survival was 30.2 months with a free survival of 29.6 months. The overall survival after LT analysis between the patients treated with Y90-RE and patients without was not significant (p = 0.113). Free survival analysis was not significant (p = 0.897) between the two populations. CONCLUSIONS: We successfully performed LT in patients after Y90-RE treatment both as bridging and downstaging for HCC and obtained a similar overall and free survival of LT for HCC within Milan criteria. Y90-RE becomes a real option to provide curative therapy for patients who traditionally are not considered eligible for surgery.