Hilar lymph nodes sampling at the time of liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma: to do or not to do?

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of tumor-positive hilar lymph nodes (LN) on tumor recurrence and survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) undergoing liver transplantation (LT). A computer search of the Medline database was carried out. The outcome of patients with positive hilar LN (study group) was compared with that of patients with negative LN (reference group). Five clinical studies evaluating tumor recurrence after LT for HCC according to hilar LN status were identified. Five further clinical studies evaluated patients' survival in reference to LN metastases. The test of heterogeneity for each comparison revealed no significant differences (exact P = 0.4638). A significant correlation between tumor-positive LN and tumor recurrence was shown (exact estimation of common odds ratio by 10.44, 95% confidence interval of 3.431–38.59). Furthermore, data analyses using the Fisher-combination test regarding patient survival in the two groups showed a statistical difference (P < 0.0001). The negative prognostic value of hilar LN metastasis for both tumor recurrence and survival was confirmed by this analysis. Given the ever-present diagnostic dilemma associated with enlarged hilar LN, especially in hepatitis C-positive patients, hilar LN sampling during LT for HCC could better define patients at risk.

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