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Alpha-fetoprotein and tumour size are associated with microvascular invasion in explanted livers of patients undergoing transplantation with hepatocellular carcinoma


Roberto Gedaly, University of Kentucky Transplant Center, 800 Rose St. Room C451, Lexington, KY 40536-0293, USA. Tel: 1 859 323 4661; Fax: 1 859 257 3644; E-mail:


Background:  To determine factors associated with outcomes and microvascular invasion (MVI) in patients undergoing liver transplantation (LT) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Methods:  Between July 1996 and August 2008 at the Universities of Kentucky or Tennessee, LT recipients were retrospectively analysed.

Results:  One hundred and one patients had HCC in the explanted liver; one patient was excluded because of fibrolamellar histology. Seventy-nine (79%) were male and 81 (81%) were older than 50. HCC was incidental in 32 patients (32%). Median follow-up was 31 months. Ten patients (10%) developed recurrence, which was associated with poor survival (P= 0.006). Overall 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates were 87%, 69% and 62%, respectively. Excluding patients with lymph node metastasis (LNM) or MVI yielded 91%, 81% and 75% survival at the same time points. MVI was independently associated with recurrence (OR 28.40, 95% CI 1.77–456.48, P= 0.018) and decreased survival (OR 4.70, 95% CI 1.24–17.80, P= 0.023), and LNM with decreased survival (OR 6.05, 95% CI 1.23–29.71, P= 0.027). Tumour size (OR 4.1, 95% CI 1.2–13.5, P= 0.013) and alpha-fetoproptein (AFP) > 100 (OR 5.0, 95% CI 1.4–18.1, P= 0.006) were associated with MVI.

Conclusions:  MVI greatly increases the risk of recurrence and death after LT for HCC, and is strongly associated with tumour size and AFP > 100.