Financial Burden of Liver Transplant vs Resection for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

N. Skill, James Butler, Daniel C. O'Brien, Joshua K. Kays, Chandrashekar Kubal, Suthat Liangpunsakul, Nehal Ninad, Mary Maluccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


BACKGROUND: Liver transplant and liver resection are surgical treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) performed with curative intent. While liver transplant provides longer survival when compared to resection, the financial burden on patients and payors is significantly greater. With the increase in health care costs and the emergence of high deductible insurance policies that increase out of pocket deductibles for patients, assessment of value-based treatment is warranted. METHODS: We compiled total billable events from diagnosis of HCC through resection (N = 20) or transplant (N = 24) to death or last reported encounter from January 2011 to December 2012. RESULTS: Patients with HCC receiving resection had a model of end stage liver disease of 10.2 ± 1.2, survival 652 days (3-1, 167 days), and billable encounters of $316,873 ($2904/day). HCC patients receiving a liver transplant had a greater liver injury (model of end stage liver disease of 19.2 ± 3.7), longer survival (1579 days), and higher billable encounters, $740,714 ($2889/day). The surgical procedure represented the largest cost category (28% and 26% resection vs transplant, respectively). The cost effectiveness of treatment was directly proportional to length of survival. In resection, patients who survived >30 days (85%) cost per day dropped to $432. Transplant patients who survived >2 years (75%) saw the cost per day drop to $462. CONCLUSION: The relative financial burdens of liver resection vs liver transplant for treating HCC are comparable in patients who survive beyond a certain threshold. Transplant patients survived longer, and survival beyond 2 years makes this approach cost effective. In a health care climate aiming to contain costs and evaluate value-based treatment paradigms, expected survival and financial burden should be included in the treatment decision analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1907-1912
Number of pages6
JournalTransplantation proceedings
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Transplantation

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    Skill, N., Butler, J., O'Brien, D. C., Kays, J. K., Kubal, C., Liangpunsakul, S., Ninad, N., & Maluccio, M. (2019). Financial Burden of Liver Transplant vs Resection for Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Transplantation proceedings, 51(6), 1907-1912.