Hepatocellular carcinoma: resection versus transplantation

Semin Liver Dis. 2013 Aug;33(3):282-92. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1351783. Epub 2013 Aug 13.


Hepatic resection and transplantation remain the standard curative therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma. These treatments are limited to either patients with early-stage tumors in the case of transplantation or patients with preserved liver function in the case of resection. Currently, patients with early-stage tumors and advanced liver disease are best served by transplant evaluation; however, the best treatment strategy for patients with well-preserved liver function, absence of portal hypertension, and early-stage HCC is debated. Numerous retrospective studies have documented better disease-free survival with transplantation, although the benefit on overall survival is less clear. This effect is likely due to the availability of effective liver-directed therapies for recurrence postresection and the effect of immunosuppression on tumor progression following posttransplant recurrence. Survival studies based on intention-to-treat principle incorporating patients listed for transplantation, but did not undergo the procedure due to waitlist dropoff have also suggested that overall survival rates may not be different despite high recurrence rates following resection. Transplantation has been shown to offer a survival advantage beyond 5-years; however, improvements in adjuvant therapies may narrow this gap. Determining optimal therapy for an individual patient requires consideration of numerous factors including tumor stage, severity of liver disease, and comorbidities as well as geographic and logistical factors that may affect transplant availability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Hepatectomy* / adverse effects
  • Hepatectomy* / mortality
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Liver Transplantation* / mortality
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Selection
  • Reoperation
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists