Current liver allocation policy in the United States grants liver transplant candidates with stage T2 hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) a priority Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score of 22, regardless of age. Because advanced age may portend an increase in all-cause mortality after transplantation for any diagnosis, the aim of this study was to examine overall posttransplant survival in elderly patients with HCC versus younger cohorts. Based on Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network data, Kaplan-Meier 5-year survival rates were compared. Recipients undergoing primary liver transplantation were stratified into cohorts based on age (<70 or ≥ 70 years) and the receipt of MELD exception points for HCC. Log-rank and Wilcoxon tests were used for statistical comparisons. In 2009, 143 transplants were performed for patients who were 70 years old or older. Forty-two percent of these patients received a MELD exception for HCC. Regardless of the diagnosis, the overall survival rate was significantly attenuated for the septuagenarians versus the younger cohort. After 5 years of follow-up, this disparity exceeded 10% to 15% depending on the populations being compared. The 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year actuarial survival rates were 88.4%, 83.2%, 79.6%, 76.1%, and 72.7%, respectively, for the patients who were younger than 70 years and 81.1%, 73.8%, 67.1%, 61.9%, and 55.2%, respectively, for the patients who were 70 years old or older. Five-year survival was negatively affected for patients with HCC who were younger than 70 years; this disparity was not observed for patients with HCC who were 70 years old or older. In conclusion, although patients who are 70 years old or older compose a small fraction of transplant recipients in the United States, patients in this group undergoing transplantation for HCC form an even smaller subset. Overall, transplantation in this age group yields outcomes inferior to those for younger cohorts. However, unlike patients who are less than 70 years old and receive MELD exception points, overall liver transplant survival is not affected by HCC at an advanced age.
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