Liver transplantation (LT) offers the most effective treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma patients. Various preoperative variables are correlated with survival after LT, but the prognostic role of aging on LT remains controversial.
Between January 2001 and December 2011, 290 consecutive transplants for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma performed in Shanghai First People's Hospital (People's Republic of China) were analyzed retrospectively. We compared patient characteristics and survival curves between a younger group (less than 49 years, n=135) and an aged group (50 years or older, n=155). We then performed Cox multivariate regression analysis of the risk factors for survival in aged and younger patients.
Younger age was associated with higher alpha-fetoprotein (P=0.014), larger tumor size (P=0.038), poorer differentiation (P=0.025), portal lymph node metastasis (P=0.001), and higher recurrence rate (P=0.038). Aged patients had significantly longer recurrence-free survival and overall survival (P=0.020 and P=0.014, respectively); however, there were no significant differences between the younger and aged patients who met the Milan criteria (P>0.05). The 1-, 3-, and 5-year recurrence-free survival rates were 59.7%, 44.5%, and 37.3%, respectively, in the younger group, and 67.9%, 55.3%, and 53.8%, respectively, in the aged group. The 1-, 3-, and 5-year overall survival rates were 68.4%, 45.5%, and 38.9%, respectively, in the younger group, and 76.1%, 59.7%, and 53.9%, respectively, in the aged group. Alpha-fetoprotein ≥400 ng/mL, microvascular invasion, and tumor size >5 cm were independent risk factors for prognosis in both groups.
Younger patients in our center tended to present with more aggressive tumors and have a higher risk of recurrence. Our single-center experience suggests that younger patients should be assessed more rigorously before LT, while aged patients should be actively considered for LT after appropriate selection.