Short- and long-term mortality after liver transplantation in patients with and without hepatocellular carcinoma in the UK

Background: The increasing demand for liver transplantation has led to considerable changes in characteristics of donors and recipients. This study evaluated the short- and long-term mortality of recipients with and without hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in the UK between 1997 and 2016.

Methods: First-time elective adult liver transplant recipients in the UK were identified and four successive eras of transplantation were compared. Hazard ratios (HRs) comparing the impact of era on short-term (first 90 days) and longer-term (from 90 days to 5 years) mortality were estimated, with adjustment for recipient and donor characteristics.

Results: Some 1879 recipients with and 7661 without HCC were included. There was an increase in use of organs donated after circulatory death (DCD), from 0 per cent in era 1 to 35·2 per cent in era 4 for recipients with HCC, and from 0·2 to 24·1 per cent for non-HCC recipients. The 3-year mortality rate decreased from 28·3 per cent in era 1 to 16·9 per cent in era 4 (adjusted HR 0·47, 95 per cent c.i. 0·35 to 0·63) for recipients with HCC, and from 20·4 to 9·3 per cent (adjusted HR 0·44, 0·36 to 0·53) for those without HCC. Comparing era 4 with era 1, improvements were more marked in short-term than in long-term mortality, both for recipients with HCC (0-90 days: adjusted HR 0·20, 0·10 to 0·39; 90 days to 5 years: adjusted HR 0·52, 0·35 to 0·75; P = 0·043) and for non-HCC recipients (0-90 days: adjusted HR 0·32, 0·24 to 0·42; 90 days to 5 years: adjusted HR 0·52, 0·40 to 0·67; P = 0·024).

Conclusion: In the past 20 years, the mortality rate after liver transplantation has more than halved, despite increasing use of DCD donors. Improvements in overall survival can be explained by decreases in short-term and longer-term mortality.