Hypothesis: The role of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in determining the prognosis after hepatectomy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with cirrhosis is controversial.
Design: Retrospective study based on multicenter prospectively updated databases.
Setting: Two tertiary referral centers specializing in hepatobiliary surgery.
Patients: Two hundred four consecutive patients with cirrhosis undergoing hepatectomy for single nodules of HCC of 5 cm or smaller from January 1, 1997, through September 30, 2006.
Interventions: Patients were divided into the following groups according to their preoperative viral status: HBV positive and hepatitis C virus (HCV) negative (group 1); HBV negative and HCV positive (group 2); HBV negative and HCV negative (group 3); and HBV positive and HCV positive (group 4).
Main outcome measures: A multivariate analysis was performed to determine factors associated with recurrence-free survival (RFS) among demographic, clinical, pathological, and surgical variables.
Results: The 2 centers had comparable RFS and early and late recurrence rates. Five-year RFS was significantly higher in groups 2 and 3 compared with group 1 (38%, 34%, and 9%, respectively; P = .007 and P = .05). Factors independently associated with RFS were HBV infection (P = .009; odds ratio, 1.79; 95% confidence interval, 1.15-2.78) and poor tumor differentiation (P < .001; odds ratio, 2.01; 95% confidence interval, 1.36-2.96). The concomitance of 0, 1, or 2 risk factors led to 5-year RFS rates of 49%, 20%, and 8%, respectively (P < .001).
Conclusions: Infection with HBV is a strong predictive factor for lower RFS after hepatectomy for a single nodule of HCC of 5 cm or smaller in patients with cirrhosis, providing a further basis for adjuvant antiviral treatment. Patients who are seropositive for HBV with poorly differentiated HCC should also be considered to be at a high risk of recurrence and possibly included in a policy of salvage liver transplantation.