Brain metastases from hepatocellular carcinoma are extremely rare. The objectives of the current study were to assess the natural history, outcome, and possible prognostic factors in patients with brain metastases from hepatocellular carcinoma. Between 1995 and 2006, 6,919 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma were treated at Yonsei University Health System. Of those, 62 (0.9%) had a diagnosis of brain metastasis. We carried out a retrospective review of these 62 patients and performed a statistical analysis. The median age at the time patients were diagnosed with brain metastasis was 54 years. Forty-seven patients (76%) were male, and 53 patients had hepatitis B. Median time from diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma to brain metastasis was 18.2 months, and 5 patients had brain involvement as their initial presentation. Intracranial hemorrhage was frequently associated (54.8%) with brain metastasis. The most common presenting symptoms were motor weakness, mental change, and headache. Metastases were treated with whole-brain radiation therapy (WBRT) alone in 17 patients and gamma knife surgery alone in 10 patients. Six patients underwent surgical resection and 5 patients were treated with surgical resection followed by WBRT. Twenty-four patients (39%) received steroids only. Median survival after diagnosis of brain metastasis was 6.8 weeks (95% confidence interval: 3.8–9.8 weeks). Univariate analysis showed that treatment modality, number of brain lesions, α-fetoprotein, ECOG performance score, recursive partitioning analysis (RPA) class, and Child-Pugh classification had a statistically significant impact on survival. In multivariate analysis, treatment modality, number of brain lesions, and Child-Pugh classification were statistically significant prognostic factors for survival. The overall prognosis of patients with brain metastases from hepatocellular carcinoma is extremely poor. Nevertheless, some subsets of patients manifested the most favorable survival criteria (single brain metastasis and good liver function); thus, for at least these patients, treatment may result in an improved survival time.
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