Selection of patients suffering from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in cirrhosis for liver transplantation follows limits of number and diameter of tumor nodules. It has not been investigated whether there is a correlation of these parameters with vascular invasion. From 1989 to 2000, 1,188 liver transplantations were performed in 1,087 patients, including 120 patients (11%) with an HCC in cirrhosis. Selection criteria were a maximal diameter of up to 5 cm if the tumor appeared to be uninodular or of up to 3 cm in the case of 2 or 3 nodules. The postoperative mortality rate was 1.7%. One-, 5-, and 10-year survival was 90%, 71%, and 60%, respectively. In 940 transplantation patients without an HCC, these rates were 93%, 87%, and 83% (P < .0001). Vascular invasion and histopathologic grading were identified as prognostic parameters by multivariate analysis. In a logistic regression analysis, histopathologic grading and maximal diameter showed a significant correlation with a vascular invasion. Analyzing tumors larger than 5 cm, i.e., tumors not fulfilling the selection criteria as a result of diagnostic inaccuracy or progression thereafter, the rates of vascular invasion were significantly (P < .01) lower in patients suffering from well-differentiated tumors (25%) when compared with moderately and poorly differentiated tumors (100%). Liver transplantation is a safe and effective long-term treatment for small HCC in cirrhosis. Tumor diameter and number of nodules in correlation with the histopathologic grading were predictive of a vascular invasion only in HCC larger than 5 cm.
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