Liver transplantation is one of the best treatment options for selected patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The Milan criteria (a single tumor with a maximum size of 5 cm or two or three tumors with a maximum size of 3 cm without evidence of vascular or extrahepatic involvement or metastasis) are one of the most common criteria to select patients with HCC for transplantation, though they are considered too restrictive. A moderate expansion of the criteria has been found to yield comparable recurrence-free survival rates. HCC will recur in approximately 10% of patients, and mostly within the first 2 years after transplantation. The preoperative level of alpha-fetoprotein, macrovascular invasion, tumor size, and tumor number are prognostic factors for recurrence. Recurrence of HCC after transplantation results in a poor prognosis.
Over the last three decades, liver transplantation (LT) in China has made breakthroughs from scratch. Now, new techniques are being continuously incorporated. However, LT in China differs from that in other countries due to cultural differences and the disease burden. The advances made in and the current issues with LT in China need to be summarized. Living donor LT (LDLT) has developed dramatically in China over the last 30 years, with the goal of increasing transplant opportunities and dealing with the shortage of donors. Western candidate selection criteria clearly are not appropriate for Chinese patients. Thus, the current authors reviewed the literature, and this review has focused on the topics of technological advancements in LDLT and Chinese candidate selection. The Milan criteria in wide use emphasize tumor morphology rather than pathology or biomarkers. α-fetoprotein (AFP) and pathology were incorporated as predictors for the first time in the Hangzhou criteria. Moreover, Xu et al. divided the Hangzhou criteria into type A (tumor size ≤ 8 cm or tumor size > 8 cm but AFP ≤ 100 ng/mL) and type B (tumor size > 8 cm but AFP between 100 and 400 ng/mL), with type B serving as a relative contraindication in the event of a liver donor shortage. In addition, surgeons in Chengdu and Shanghai have the ability to perform a laparoscopic hepatectomy for right and left lobe donors, respectively. China has established a complete LT system, including recipient criteria suitable for Chinese people, a fair donor allocation center, a transplant quality monitoring platform, and mature deceased donor or living donor LT techniques.