Background: Hepatectomy for hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis is followed by an impairment of liver function that can lead to patient death. The model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) is considered an index of hepatic functional reserve, and its assessment on postoperative course may properly identify individuals at risk of liver failure.
Study design: Two hundred hepatectomies for hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis were reviewed. Irreversible postoperative liver failure was defined as an impairment of liver function after hepatectomy that led to patient death or required transplantation. The MELD scores at postoperative days (POD) 1, 3, 5, and 7 were calculated and kinetics of changes investigated with t-test; logistic regression was applied to identify predictive variables of postoperative liver failure.
Results: Kinetics of postoperative MELD score showed an impairment of liver function between PODs 1 and 3; 185 patients in whom postoperative liver failure did not develop showed a considerable decrease in MELD score between PODs 3 and 5 (11.9+/-2.8 and 10.6+/-2.4, respectively, p<0.001). On the contrary, 15 patients, who experienced the event, showed an increase in MELD score between PODs 3 and 5 (18.2+/-3.9 and 18.3+/-3.6, respectively; p=0.845). Multivariate analysis showed preoperative MELD score (p<0.001), major hepatectomy (p=0.028), and MELD score increase between PODs 3 and 5 (p=0.011) as independent predictors of irreversible postoperative liver failure. Scores are reported as mean+/-SD.
Conclusions: Recovery from liver impairment after hepatectomy for hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis starts from POD 3; MELD scores increasing between PODs 3 and 5 may identify patients at risk of liver failure and represents the trigger for beginning intensive treatment or evaluating salvage transplantation.