Outcomes and diagnostic challenges posed by incidental cholangiocarcinoma after liver transplantation

Transplantation. 2011 Jun 27;91(12):1392-7. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e31821aba57.


Background: Liver transplantation in the presence of cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) generally carries a poor prognosis. However, the outcome of patients found to have incidental CCA (iCCA) on explanted liver histology is less clear. We have evaluated the outcomes of iCCA in our liver transplant population.

Methods: A retrospective search was made of the transplantation and histopathology databases for patients fulfilling our definition for iCCA. All records, including archived histopathologic slides were retrieved and analyzed.

Results: Of 1288 patients undergoing liver transplantation over the 20-year period 1988-2008, nine were found to have iCCA (0.70%). Seven of the nine patients underwent liver transplantation for primary sclerosing cholangitis. Three additional patients who were transplanted for presumed hepatocellular carcinoma that subsequently turned out to be CCA were identified, but excluded from survival analysis. The majority of tumors were early stage (T2 or below), but five (55.6%) had positive biliary transection margins. Median follow-up was 51 months. Five patients (55.6%) developed recurrence of CCA after a median interval of 25.8 months, giving a disease-free survival of 100% at 1 year and 66.7% at 3 years. Three patients have died of recurrence, with a median interval from transplantation of 25 months. The overall 3-year survival was 66.7%.

Conclusions: Patients found to have iCCA after liver transplantation have a relatively poor prognosis. Prospective liver transplant recipients, especially those with primary sclerosing cholangitis, should be investigated rigorously to exclude CCA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / complications
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Liver Failure / complications
  • Liver Failure / diagnosis*
  • Liver Failure / therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / complications
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Liver Transplantation / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome