Between April 1986 and August 1990, 151 liver transplantations were performed at our institution, 16 (11%) of them in 14 patients with primary hepatic tumors. There were 12 hepatocellular carcinomas, 1 angiosarcoma, and 1 Klatskin tumor. None of the tumors was resectable, and there was no preoperative evidence of extrahepatic tumoral extension. Exploratory laparotomy was performed prior to transplantation in three patients and selective embolization of the tumor in six patients. There was no difference in the intraoperative requirements for blood or plasma in the patients with hepatic tumors when compared with other transplant recipients (28.6 +/- 23.6 units packed red blood cells [PRBC] versus 20.1 +/- 17.8 units PRBC, and 17.9 +/- 12.2 units plasma versus 17.1 +/- 10.5 units plasma, respectively). Extracorporeal venovenous bypass was used in all but one patient. There was no significant differences in the incidence of acute rejection or in the length of hospitalization in these patients when compared with other transplant recipients. All patients received triple immunosuppressive therapy (corticosteroids, azathioprine, and cyclosporin A). Intraoperative mortality was zero. At a mean of 13.3 months' follow-up (range: 1 to 47 months), 2 of 14 patients had died of sepsis and 1 of terminal cirrhosis (autopsies revealed no evidence of tumor recurrence); 3 patients (21%) had recurrences of the tumor (1 in the central nervous system and liver, and the other 2 in the lung). One of the three patients with a recurrent tumor is still alive after 16 months. The remaining nine patients (64%) are still alive.