Incidence, Characteristics, and Prognosis of Incidentally Discovered Hepatocellular Carcinoma after Liver Transplantation

Abstract

Background. We aimed to assess incidentally discovered hepatocellular carcinoma (iHCC) over time and to compare outcome to preoperatively diagnosed hepatocellular carcinoma (pdHCC) and nontumor liver transplants. Methods. We studied adults transplanted with a follow-up of at least one year. Patients were divided into 3 groups according to diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma. Results. Between 1990 and 2010, 887 adults were transplanted. Among them, 121 patients (13.6%) had pdHCC and 32 patients (3.6%) had iHCC; frequency of iHCC decreased markedly over years, in parallel with significant increase in pdHCC. Between 1990 and 1995, 120 patients had liver transplants, 4 (3.3%) of them had iHCC, and only 3 (2.5%) had pdHCC, while in the last 5 years, 263 patients were transplanted, 7 (0.03%) of them had iHCC, and 66 (25.1%) had pdHCC (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference between groups regarding patient survival; 5-year survival was 74%, 75.5%, and 77.3% in iHCC, pdHCC, and non-HCC groups, respectively (P = 0.702). Patients with iHCC had no recurrences after transplant, while pdHCC patients experienced 17 recurrences (15.3%) (P = 0.016). Conclusions. iHCC has significantly decreased despite steady increase in number of transplants for hepatocellular carcinoma. Patients with iHCC had excellent outcomes with no tumor recurrence and survival comparable to pdHCC.

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