Background: Little is known about the metastatic pattern in patients with extrahepatic metastasis after the removal of primary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of the present study was to determine the clinicopathologic characteristics and prognosis of patients with extrahepatic metastasis from HCC according to the recurrence pattern.
Methods: Among the patients who underwent hepatic resection for HCC between 1981 and 2001, 80 patients had no recurrence; 221 patients had intrahepatic recurrence, and 47 patients experienced extrahepatic metastasis within a mean follow-up period of 4.8 +/- 3.7 years (+/-SD; range, 2-15 years). The pattern of extrahepatic metastasis after hepatic resection was divided into pattern I (first recurrence in the liver and then spread outside the liver after repetitive intrahepatic recurrences and repetitive locoregional treatments), pattern II (simultaneous recognition of intrahepatic and extrahepatic recurrences), and pattern III (extrahepatic, but no intrahepatic, lesions at first recurrence).
Results: There were significant differences in proportions of patients with invasion of the portal vein, hepatic vein, or inferior vena cava, intrahepatic metastases, and tumor stage between patients with intra- and extrahepatic metastases. The disease-free survival and extrahepatic metastasis-free survival in pattern I were better than pattern II. Survival after extrahepatic metastasis did not correlate with the 3 patterns.
Conclusion: Although long-term overall survival was better in patients with pattern I of extrahepatic recurrences, prognosis was poor in all patterns once extrahepatic metastasis developed.