INTRODUCTION: Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is a rational therapeutic option for early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) providing a potential cure and improving survival.
METHODS: This retrospective study of a longitudinal cohort used an electronic database collected prospectively from September 1997 to May 2010. The variables were gender, age (years), and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level (ng/mL). In explanted livers we observed: microvascular or macrovascular invasion, number of nodules and their largest size, Edmondson-Steiner histological differentiation, incidental tumor transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), Milan criteria, and previous down-staging.
RESULTS: Five of 83 (6.0%) subjects including 68 (82%) males with a mean time to diagnosis of 9 months experienced tumor relapses. Mean patient age at HCC recurrence was 55.3 years for male and 44.6 years for female subjects. Vascular invasion was detected in 17/83 (20.5%) subjects, namely 2% of macrovascular invasion, and 52.5% with expanded Milan criteria due to an increased number and size of nodules in the explanted livers. An incidental tumor was observed in 29.5% of cases. Preoperative TACE treatment was performed in 13 (15.6%) patients. None of the patients who had a HCC recurrence had undergone TACE. AFP level at the time of recurrence was around 1,900 ng/mL. The predictive factor for mortality was nodule size (P = .04; hazard ratio = 0.0269; confidence interval [CI], 95% 0.0094-0.299).
CONCLUSION: Patients with relapses showed the worst survival and tumor size was a predictive factor for recurrence.