Background: The red blood cell distribution width (RDW) was reported to be related to the severity of liver diseases, but its clinical significance in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. The aim of this study was to explore the clinical significance of RDW in HCC patients.
Methods: For the retrospective study, 422 HCC patients were enrolled in this study. Hematological parameters and liver biochemical indexes were analyzed. Child-Pugh grade and Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) stages of the HCC patients were calculated. The diagnostic accuracy was evaluated according to the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. The medical records of HCC patients who were admitted to The Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine from January 2006 to August 2015 were retro-spectively reviewed.
Results: Subgroup analysis showed that RDW level of HCC patients with tumor size more than 10 cm were higher than those of HCC patients with tumor size smaller than 3 cm, 3 - 5 cm, and 5 - 10 cm (14.77 ± 2.35%, 15.27 ± 2.65%, 15.32 ± 2.40% vs. 15.97 ± 2.39%, p < 0.001). RDW level significantly increased with worsening Child-Pugh grade and BCLC stages. In addition, RDW level were negatively correlated with red blood cell (RBC) counts, hematocrit (HCT), lymphocyte (LY) counts, hemoglobin (Hb), blood platelet (PLT) counts, and positively correlated with aspartate-aminotransferase (AST), and total bile acid (TBA). ROC curve analysis showed that RDW level was 14.15% was the optimal prognostic cutoff point to determine the survival rate of HCC patients. In the univariate analysis followed by multivariate analysis, RDW level below 14.15% together with better Child-Pugh grade, better BCLC stages, and smaller tumor size were prognostic indicators for HCC patients. This indicated HCC patients with RDW level below 14.15% [hazard ratio of 0.530 (95% confidence interval, 0.395 - 0.710; p < 0.001)] had the lower mortality.
Conclusions: RDW level was positively associated with tumor size. The prognosis was better for HCC patients with RDW levels below14.15% together with better Child-Pugh grade, better BCLC stages, and smaller tumor lesions. It suggested RDW level might be an easily obtainable and inexpensive prognostic indicator for HCC patients.