Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This study sought to establish an actual risk-based long-term screening protocol for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) recurrence after liver transplantation (OLT).
The study was a retrospective review of medical records from 334 HCC patients who underwent primary living donor OLT and followed up for at least 5 years.
Overall 10-year patient survival rate was 67.5%, with a 4.8% perioperative mortality. HCC recurred in 68/318 (21.4%) surviving patients over a mean follow-up of 77 months. HCC recurrence was 20.7% at 5 and 22.2% at 10 years. Annual recurrence rates were 11.4%, 6.6%, and 2.0% during the first, second, and third years, respectively. Among patients within Milan criteria, the annual incidence of HCC recurrence was highest during the first 3 years; thereafter only 6 sporadic recurrences were observed during next 8 years. Among subjects beyond Milan criteria, recurrence was common during, but not after 3 years. In 43 patients (63.2%) increased alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) was an initial indication to perform further imaging studies to diagnosis recurrence, whereas they were detected incidentally on protocol screening imaging among another 25 patients (36.8%) in the absence of an AFP rise. There was a close correlation between pretransplant AFP level and AFP increase after HCC recurrence.
Patients beyond the Milan criteria require frequent tumor marker tests and imaging studies over the first 3 years; and those within Milan criteria require 10-years to follow-up primarily with tumor marker tests.