Background: Both liver transplantation (LT) and liver resection (LR) represent curative treatment options for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with liver cirrhosis. In this study, we have compared outcomes between historical and more recent patient cohorts scheduled either for LT or LR, respectively.
Methods: Clinicopathological data of all patients with HCC and cirrhosis who underwent LT or LR between 1989 and 2011 were evaluated. Overall survival of patients with HCC within the Milan criteria (MC) was analyzed focusing on changes between different time periods.
Results: In total, 364 and 141 patients underwent LT and LR for HCC in cirrhosis, respectively. Among patients with HCC within MC, 214 and 59 underwent LT and LR, respectively. Postoperative morbidity (37 vs. 11%, P < .0001), but not mortality (3 vs. 1%, P = .165), was higher after LR than after LT for HCC within MC. In the period 1989-2004, overall survival (OS) was significantly higher in patients who underwent LT compared to LR for HCC within MC (5-year OS: 77 vs. 36%, P < .0001). Interestingly, in the more recent period 2005-2011, OS was comparable between LT and LR for HCC within MC (5-year OS: 73 vs. 61%, P = .07).
Conclusion: We have noted an improvement of outcomes among patients selected for partial hepatectomy in recent years that were comparable to stable results after LT in cirrhotic patients with HCC. Whether those improvements are due to advances in liver surgery, optimized perioperative managament for patients with liver cirrhosis, and the development of modern multimodal treatment strategies for the recurrent lesions appears plausible.
Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver resection; Liver transplantation.