Objective The effect of postoperative complications including red blood transfusion (BT) on long-term survival for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is unknown. The purpose of this study was to define the relationship between postoperative complications and long-term survival in patients with HCC. Methods Postoperative complications of 1251 patients who underwent curative liver resection for HCC were classified, and their recurrence-free survival (RFS) and cumulative overall survival (OS) were investigated. Results Any complications occurred in 503 patients (40%). Five-year RFS and 5-year OS in the complication group were 21% and 56%, respectively, significantly lower than the respective values of 32% ( p < 0.001) and 68% ( p < 0.001) in the no-complication group (n=748). Complications related to RFS were postoperative BT [Hazard ratio (HR): 1.726, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.338–2.228, p < 0.001], pleural effusion [HR: 1.434, 95% CI: 1.200–1.713, p < 0.001] using Cox-proportional hazard model. Complications related to OS were postoperative BT [HR: 1.843, 95%CI: 1.380-2.462, p < 0.001], ascites [HR: 1.562, 95% CI: 1.066–2.290 p = 0.022], and pleural effusion [HR: 1.421, 95% CI: 1.150–1.755, p = 0.001). Conclusions Postoperative complications were factors associated with poor long-term survival. Postoperative BT and pleural effusion, were noticeable complications that were prognostic factors for both recurrence-free survival and overall survival.

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