Objective: Currently, there is considerable controversy about the place of transplantation in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study compared resection to transplantation in cirrhotic patients with HCC in order to determine reasonable indications of each treatment.
Summary background data: The usual procedure is to resect when feasible and to transplant in other cases.
Methods: Three-year survival with and without recurrence was analyzed in 60 patients who underwent resection and 60 who underwent transplantation. Several prognostic factors, such as size, number of nodules, portal thrombus, and histologic form, were studied.
Results: In terms of overall survival rates, resection and transplantation yield the same results (50% vs. 47%, respectively, at 3 years). For transplantation, however, the rate for survival without recurrence is better than that for resection (46% vs. 27%, respectively; p < 0.05). In the case of small uninodular or binodular tumors (< 3 cm), transplantation has much better results than resection (survival without recurrence, 83% vs. 18%, respectively; p < 0.001). However, it seems that a group of patients with high risk of recurrence after transplantation can be determined (diffuse form, more than two nodules > 3 cm, or presence of portal thrombus).
Conclusions: The best indication for transplantation seems to be patients with small and uninodular or binodular tumors; until now, these patients were considered to be the best candidates for resection. Patients undergoing transplantation for unresectable, large, multinodular or diffuse tumors seem to represent bad indications for transplantation. These results could help define reasonable indications for transplantation in an era with a shortage of liver grafts.