Surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been recommended in patients with cirrhosis. In this study, we examined the extent to which the competing risk of hepatic decompensation influences the benefit of HCC surveillance by investigating the impact of availability of liver transplantation (LTx) and the rate of progression of hepatic decompensation on survival gain from HCC surveillance. A multistate Markov model was constructed simulating a cohort of 50-year-old patients with compensated cirrhosis. The primary outcome of interest was all-cause and HCC-specific mortality. The main input data included incidence of HCC, sensitivity of screening test, and mortality from hepatic decompensation. Treatment modalities modeled included LTx, resection, and radiofrequency ablation. In the base case scenario, LTx would be available to prevent death in a certain proportion of patients. In the absence of surveillance, 68.2% of the cohort members died within 15 years; of these decedents, 25.1% died from HCC and 43.6% died from hepatic decompensation. With surveillance, the median survival improved from 10.4 years to 11.2 years. The number of subjects under surveillance needed to reduce one all-cause and one HCC-specific death over 15 years was 28 and 18, respectively. In sensitivity analyses, incidence of HCC and progression of cirrhosis had the strongest effect on the benefit of surveillance, whereas LTx availability had a negligible effect. Conclusion: HCC surveillance decreases all-cause and tumor-specific mortality in patients with compensated cirrhosis regardless of LTx availability. In addition, incidence of HCC and sensitivity of surveillance test also had a substantial impact on the benefits of surveillance. (Hepatology 2018;68:78-88).
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