Radiological-histopathological discordance in patients transplanted for HCC and its impact on post-transplant outcomes

Islam B. Mohamed, Mohamed Saleh Ismail, Ahmed El Sabagh, Ahmed M. Afifi Abdelwahab, Efstathia Polychronopoulou, Yong Fang Kuo, Manal Hassan, John A. Goss, Fasiha Kanwal, Prasun K. Jalal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aims: Contrast-enhanced cross-sectional imaging is the cornerstone in the diagnosis, staging, and management of HCC, including eligibility for liver transplantation (LT). Radiological-histopathological discordance may lead to improper staging and may impact patient outcomes. We aimed to assess the radiological-histopathological discordance at the time of LT in HCC patients and its impact on the post-LT outcomes. Methods: We analyzed further the effect of 6-month waiting policy on the discordance. Using United Network for Organ Sharing—Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (UNOS-OPTN) database, we examined the discordance between pre-LT imaging and explant histopathology for all adult HCC patients who received liver transplants from deceased donors between April 2012 and December 2017. Kaplan–Meier methods and Cox regression analyses were used to evaluate the impact of discordance on 3-year HCC recurrence and mortality. Results: Of 6842 patients included in the study, 66.7% were within Milan criteria on both imaging and explant histopathology, and 33.3% were within the Milan based on imaging but extended beyond Milan on explant histopathology. Male gender, increasing numbers of tumors, bilobar distribution, larger tumor size, and increasing AFP are associated with increased discordance. Post-LT HCC recurrence and death were significantly higher in patients who were discordant, with histopathology beyond Milan (adj HR 1.86, 95% CI 1.32–2.63 for mortality and 1.32, 95% CI 1.03–1.70 for recurrence). Graft allocation policy with 6-month waiting time led to increased discordance (OR 1.19, CI 1.01–1.41), although it did not impact post-LT outcome. Conclusion: Current practice for staging of HCC based on radiological imaging features alone results in underestimation of HCC burden in one out of three patients with HCC. This discordance is associated with a higher risk of post-LT HCC recurrence and mortality. These patients will need enhanced surveillance to optimize patient selection and aggressive LRT to reduce post-LT recurrence and increase survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15011-15025
Number of pages15
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • HCC recurrence
  • explant pathology
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • liver transplantation
  • survival after LT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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