Background: There are no conclusive cost-effectiveness studies measuring the efficacy of salvage LT after liver resection (LR) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) in patients with early hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and compensated cirrhosis. The aim of the present study is to compare liver transplantation (LT) versus locoregional therapy plus salvage LT (to treat tumor recurrence) in patients with early HCC and compensated cirrhosis. Methods: Reference case: 55-year old male with HCC within Milan criteria and Child-Pugh A cirrhosis. The analysis was performed in two geographical cost settings: USA and Italy. Survival benefit measured in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), costs (C) in US$, incremental cost-effectiveness, willingness to pay, and net health benefit (NHB). Results: In the base-case analysis, NHB of LT vs. LR and RFA was -1.7 and -1.3 years for single tumor ≤3 cm, -1.2 and -0.7 for single nodules measuring 3.1-5 cm and -0.7 and -0.7 for multi-nodular tumor ≤3 cm in Italy. In USA, NHB of LT versus LR and RFA were -1.2 and -0.8 years for single tumor ≤3 cm, -0.9 and -0.5 for single nodules measuring 3.1-5 cm, and -0.5 and -0.4 for multi-nodular tumor ≤ 3 cm. On the Monte Carlo simulation, only young patients with multi-nodular HCC and short waiting list time had a positive NHB. Salvage LT proved to be an ineffective cost strategy after RFA or LR. Conclusion: In patients with HCC within Milan criteria and Child-Pugh A cirrhosis, LR and RFA were more cost-effective than LT. Salvage LT was not cost-effective.
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