Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, Eppley Cancer Center Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.
Objectives: Surgical decision making for patients with early hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and well-compensated cirrhosis remains controversial. The aim of the current study was to conduct a meta-analysis of published reports to compare survival outcomes after transplantation and resection, respectively, in patients with early HCC [i.e. HCC falling within the Milan Criteria (a solitary lesion measuring ≤5 cm or fewer than three lesions with a largest diameter of ≤3 cm, and absence of macroscopic vascular invasion or extrahepatic disease)] and well-compensated cirrhosis. Methods: A total of 990 abstracts were identified through a PubMed-based search. Ten articles comparing transplantation and resection in patients with early HCC were included in the meta-analysis. Meta-analysis was performed using stata 9.2 statistical software. Results: Outcomes were analysed for a total of 1763 patients with early HCC. The 5-year overall survival (OS) for all patients was 58% (transplantation: 63%; resection: 53%). Meta-analysis of all 10 studies revealed a survival advantage for transplantation [odds ratio (OR) 0.581, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.359-0.939; P= 0.027]. Analysis of only those reports that utilized an 'intention-to-treat' strategy failed to demonstrate a survival advantage for either treatment approach (OR 0.600, 95% CI 0.291-1.237; P= 0.166). Conclusions: The current study demonstrates a favourable outcome in patients with early HCC treated by either transplantation or resection. Although transplantation was noted to have a survival advantage in some settings, resection continues to be a viable treatment approach.