Patterns and Predictors of Mortality After Waitlist Dropout of Patients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma Awaiting Liver Transplantation

Transplantation. 2019 Oct;103(10):2136-2143. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000002616.


Background: There is a lack of information about survival after dropout from the liver transplant waiting list. Therefore, we aimed to assess the overall survival, and risk factors for death, after waiting list dropout due to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression.

Methods: We assessed patients who dropped out of the liver transplant waiting list between 2000 and 2016 in a single, large academic North American center. Patients were divided into 3 groups according to the types of HCC progression: locally advanced disease (LAD), extrahepatic disease (EHD), and macrovascular invasion (MVI). The primary outcome was overall survival. Survival was assessed by the Kaplan-Meier method. Predictors of death after dropout were assessed by multivariable Cox regression.

Results: During the study period, 172 patients dropped out due to HCC progression. Of those, 37 (21.5%), 74 (43%), and 61 (35.5%) dropped out due to LAD, EHD, and MVI, respectively. Median survival according to cause of dropout (LAD, EHD, or MVI) was 1.0, 4.4, or 3.3 months, respectively (P = 0.01). Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) score (hazard ratio [HR], 1.04; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-1.08), alcoholic liver disease (HR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.02-2.71), and α-fetoprotein >1000 ng/mL (HR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.22-2.84) were predictors of mortality after dropout. Dropout due to EHD (HR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.38-0.98) and undergoing treatment after dropout were protective factors (HR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.21-0.48) for death.

Conclusions: Patient prognosis after dropout is dismal. However, a subgroup of patients may have longer survival. The present study identifies the patterns of waitlist dropout in patients with HCC and provides evidence for the effectiveness of treatment strategies offered to HCC patients after dropout.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy
  • Liver Transplantation / standards*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Dropouts*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / standards*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists