Objectives: Liver resection and liver transplantation are the only curative treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis. The aim of this retrospective study was to compare survival and tumor recurrence in patients with cirrhosis after hepatic resection or liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis.
Methods: Between March 1988 and March 1995, 34 patients underwent liver resection and 30 patients with cirrhosis had liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma. The probability of survival and recurrence were studied according to clinical, biological and pathological factors, defined in liver specimens. Comparisons were performed by the actuarial method and log rank test.
Results: Five-year survival after resection and transplantation was 13% and 32.6%, respectively, and 5-year recurrence was 92.6% and 40.9%, respectively (P < 0.01). The diameter of nodules was a significant predictive factor of recurrence in resected patients; the number of nodules was a significant predictive factor in transplanted patients. The combination of these two factors could be used to identify two groups: patients with large carcinoma (diameter > 5 cm and/or number of nodules > 3), and patients with small carcinoma (diameter < or = 5 cm and number of nodules < or = 3). The five-year survival rate of large hepatocellular carcinoma was 17.3% after resection and 0% after transplantation. The five-year survival rate of small hepatocellular carcinoma was 0% after resection and 69.3% after transplantation (P < 0.01). The five-year recurrence of large hepatocellular carcinoma was 72.3% after resection and 100% after transplantation. The five-year recurrence of small hepatocellular carcinoma was 82.6% after resection and 11.1% after transplantation (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Liver transplantation seems to be the best treatment for small hepatocellular carcinoma, mainly because of a lower recurrence rate. On the other hand, both treatments had a high recurrence rate in large hepatocellular carcinoma.