Underestimation of the influence of satellite nodules as a risk factor for post-transplantation recurrence in patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma



Liver transplantation offers good results in patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma. However, 3 to 15% of patients still have recurrence, suggesting that factors other than the size and number of nodules are implicated. The aim of our study was to identify predictive factors of recurrence in patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma. Seventy consecutive patients fulfilling Milano criteria and who were transplanted for hepatocellular carcinoma were studied. Forty-six patients had pretransplantation adjuvant local therapy. The size and number of tumors, the clinical and biological characteristics of the patients were recorded before liver transplantation, and histological analysis was performed on the explanted liver. Overall survival rates at 1 and 3 years were 81% and 66%, respectively. Recurrence-free survival rates at 1 and 3 years were 80% and 65%, respectively. Seven patients had tumor recurrence with 1- and 3-year recurrence rates of 5% and 10%, respectively. Satellite nodules on the explanted liver were the only statistically significant predictor of recurrence (P = .0003). None of the patients who did not have satellite nodules had recurrence. There was a significant correlation between satellite nodules and microvascular invasion. Patients with pretransplantation adjuvant therapy had significantly more tumor necrosis, but did not have less satellite nodules. In conclusion, microscopic satellite nodules are a significant predictive factor of tumor recurrence in patients transplanted for small hepatocellular carcinoma. (Liver Transpl 2004;10:S86–S90.)