Aim: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) arising from the end stages of liver cirrhosis is a fair indication for liver transplantation (LT). To pathologically investigate the multicentric occurrence of relatively early staged HCC in cirrhosis, we studied whole explanted livers.
Methods: Fourteen explanted livers from patients undergoing living donor LT (LDLT) were examined. The stage of the HCCs was judged to be within the Milan criteria (M-C; a single HCC less than 5 cm or three HCCs less than 3 cm). Histological examination was performed using serially sectioned specimens 5–7 mm in width. Characterization of preoperatively detectable and undetectable lesions was also performed.
Results: In nine patients (64.3%), a total of 34 nodules were found after whole liver histological examination (WLHE). In five patients (31%), the results exceeded the M-C. The characteristics of undetectable HCCs included a minute (median size 6 mm), well-differentiated appearance (80%), with indistinct margins (85.3%) and without vascular invasion (94%). There was no recurrence in any patients at the time of follow up (median follow-up period, 30.1 months).
Conclusion: A multicentric occurrence of HCCs was demonstrated in cirrhotic livers with HCCs within the M-C. Undetectable HCCs in cirrhotic livers may have no impact on recurrence after LT.