Locoregional recurrences are frequent after radiofrequency ablation for hepatocellular carcinoma

Lawrence E Harrison, Baburao Koneru, Phil Baramipour, Adrian Fisher, Alison Barone, Dorian Wilson, Andrew Dela Torre, Kyunghee C Cho, Daniel Contractor, Maria Korogodsky
Journal of the American College of Surgeons 2003, 197 (5): 759-64

BACKGROUND: Enthusiasm for radiofrequency ablation (RFA) therapy for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has increased. The data for recurrence after RFA for patients with HCC is not well documented. The purpose of this study was to evaluate tumor recurrence patterns after RFA in patients with unresectable HCC.

STUDY DESIGN: Over a 3-year period, 50 patients having RFA for unresectable HCC were identified at a single institution. Medical records and radiologic studies were reviewed and outcomes factors analyzed.

RESULTS: Of the entire cohort, 46 patients underwent RFA by a percutaneous approach under CT guidance. Most patients underwent either one (n = 22) or two ablations (n = 23). At the time of this report, 14 patients (28%) were tumor-free by radiologic and biochemical (alpha-fetoprotein) parameters. Eighteen additional patients had persistence of tumor at the ablation site and 14 patients had recurrence in the liver at sites different from the ablation site. An additional four patients had recurrence in extrahepatic sites. Twelve patients underwent orthotopic liver transplantation after RFA. Of these 12, 5 (42%) demonstrated no viable tumor in the explanted liver. Independent predictors of tumor recurrence included tumor size, serum AFP levels, and the presence of hepatitis.

CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that factors such as tumor size should be considered before employing RFA therapy. In addition to treating the primary tumor, other therapies aimed at the liver's inflammatory state might also be important in achieving a durable response after RFA.

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