Orthotopic liver transplantation provides a survival advantage compared with resection in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and preserved liver function

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Prior studies comparing the efficacy of orthotopic liver transplantation to resection in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma have not controlled for underlying severity of liver disease.


Patients with stage I to III hepatocellular carcinoma and preserved liver function (model for end-stage liver disease <12) who underwent resection or orthotopic liver transplantation between 2010 and 2013 were identified from the National Cancer Database. Short-term (30- and 90-day) and overall survival were assessed from 1:1 propensity score-matched cohorts based on patient and tumor characteristics.


During the period studied, 689 (28%) underwent orthotopic liver transplantation, and 1,774 (72%) patients underwent resection. Propensity score matching yielded 374 undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation matched to 374 patients undergoing resection. Rates of 30-day mortality (01.9% vs 0.8%, respectively; P = .34) and 90-day mortality (3.5% vs 2.1%, P = .38) were not different between matched cohorts. Orthotopic liver transplantation did, however, result in a greater overall survival compared with resection (median overall survival not reached versus 4.5 years; P = .01). On multivariable Cox regression, resection was associated with a 67% greater likelihood of overall mortality compared with orthotopic liver transplantation (hazard ratio 1.67; 95% confidence interval, 1.15–2.43).


For patients diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma in the context of preserved liver function, orthotopic liver transplantation was associated with a significant improvement in overall survival relative to resection.

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