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Portal vein tumour thrombosis (PVTT) has a significant impact on the prognosis of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The degree of PVTT varies from sub-/segmental invasion to complete occlusion of the main trunk. Aim of this study was to evaluate whether the degree of PVTT correlates with prognosis.A total of 1317 patients with HCC treated at our tertiary referral centre between January 2005 and December 2016 were included. PVTT was diagnosed by contrast-enhanced computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging. The extent of PVTT was documented according to the Liver Cancer Study Group of Japan classification: Vp0 = no PVTT, Vp1 = segmental portal vein invasion, Vp2 = right anterior/posterior portal vein, Vp3 = right/left portal vein and Vp4 = main trunk. Median overall survival (OS) was calculated for each group.Portal vein tumour thrombosis was present in 484 (36.8%) patients. Median OS without PVTT was 35.7 months, significantly longer than in patients with PVTT (7.2 months, P < 0.001). The patients with PVTT were subclassified as follows: 103 Vp1, 87 Vp2, 143 Vp3 and 151 Vp4. The corresponding median OS yielded 14.6, 9.4, 5.8 and 4.8 months for Vp1-Vp4, respectively (P < 0.001).Portal vein tumour thrombosis in patients with HCC is associated with a dismal prognosis. The results indicate an association between the extent of PVTT and OS. However, the extent of PVTT is not that decisive, as even minor PVTT leads to a very poor prognosis. Therefore, meticulous evaluation of cross-sectional imaging is crucial for the clinical management of patients with HCC.