BACKGROUND: Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is widely used in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Post-TACE liver failure may occur, especially in patients with poor hepatic reserve. Ascites is often present in patients with HCC with coexisting cirrhosis. This study investigated the incidence, risk factors, and prognostic predictors in patients with HCC and ascites receiving TACE.
METHODS: A total of 614 patients with HCC were enrolled and analyzed. Liver failure was defined as an increase of serum bilirubin level (≥2.0 mg/dL), increasing or newly developed ascites, or hepatic encephalopathy within 2 weeks of TACE.
RESULTS: Ascitesthat were present in 100 (16.2%) patients at study entry, independently predicted a poor prognosis in the Cox proportional hazard model [relative risk (RR)=1.75, P=0.004]. Post-TACE liver failure occurred in 17 (17.3%) of 98 patients with HCC who had ascites and long-term follow-up. Child-Turcotte-Pugh class B (odds ratio=10.1, P=0.038) and post-TACE gastrointestinal bleeding (odds ratio=10.86, P=0.006) were independent risk factors associated with liver failure in the multivariate analysis. Of the 17 patients with post-TACE liver failure, 16 (94%) died within the first year of treatment. Liver failure (RR: 2.13, P=0.029), serum α-fetoprotein level >51 ng/mL (RR=2.0, P=0.013) and poor performance status (RR: 2.17, P=0.003) independently predicted a poor prognosis in patients with ascites receiving TACE.
CONCLUSIONS: Preexisting ascites increases the mortality in patients with HCC receiving TACE. In patients with HCC and ascites, Child-Turcotte-Pugh class B and gastrointestinal bleeding are associated with liver failure after TACE. Post-TACE liver failure is a common event and predicts a decreased survival in patients with HCC and ascites.