Waitlist Priority for Hepatocellular Carcinoma Beyond Milan Criteria: A Potentially Appropriate Decision Without a Structured Approach



Due to the risk of waitlist dropout from tumor progression, liver transplant candidates with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) within Milan criteria (MC) receive standardized exception points. An expansion of this process to candidates with HCC beyond MC has been proposed, though it remains controversial. This study sought to better define the utilization of exception points in candidates with HCC beyond MC and the associated outcomes. We reviewed all nonstandardized HCC applications that underwent formal regional review board evaluation between January 1, 2005 and March 2, 2011; 2184 initial HCC exception point applications were submitted. Of these, 41.9% fulfilled MC, 26.6% fulfilled University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) criteria and 17.6% exceeded UCSF criteria. The majority of applications were accepted: 89.8% within UCSF and 71.2% beyond UCSF. There was a significantly (p < 0.001) higher risk of death on the waitlist or within 90 days of waitlist removal for candidates within UCSF (12.4%) or beyond UCSF (13.0%) criteria, compared to candidates with HCC within MC (6.0%). However, posttransplant outcomes were similar. While these results suggest increasing access to candidates with HCC beyond MC, comprehensive documentation of tumor characteristics and of successful downstaging is needed to ensure priority is restricted to those with the highest likelihood of favorable posttransplant outcome.