Significant long-term survival after radiofrequency ablation of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis

Chandrajit P Raut, Francesco Izzo, Paolo Marra, Lee M Ellis, Jean-Nicolas Vauthey, Francesco Cremona, Paolo Vallone, Angelo Mastro, Bruno D Fornage, Steven A Curley
Annals of Surgical Oncology 2005, 12 (8): 616-28

BACKGROUND: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) offers an alternative treatment in some unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients with disease confined to the liver. We prospectively evaluated survival rates in patients with early-stage, unresectable HCC treated with RFA.

METHODS: All patients with HCC treated with RFA between September 1, 1997, and July 31, 2002, were prospectively evaluated. Patients were treated with RFA by using a percutaneous or open intraoperative approach with ultrasound guidance and were evaluated at regular intervals to determine disease recurrence and survival.

RESULTS: A total of 194 patients (153 men [79%] and 41 women [21%]) with a median age of 66 years (range, 39-86 years) underwent RFA of 289 sonographically detectable HCC tumors. All patients were followed up for at least 12 months (median follow-up, 34.8 months). Percutaneous and open intraoperative RFA was performed in 140 (72%) and 54 (28%) patients, respectively. The median diameter of tumors treated with RFA was 3.3 cm. Disease recurred in 103 (53%) of 194 patients, including 69 (49%) of 140 patients treated percutaneously and 34 (63%) of 54 treated with open RFA (not significant). Local recurrence developed in nine patients (4.6%). Most recurrence was intrahepatic. The overall complication rate was 12%. Overall survival rates at 1, 3, and 5 years for all 194 patients were 84.5%, 68.1%, and 55.4%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with RFA can produce significant long-term survival rates for cirrhotic patients with early-stage, unresectable HCC. RFA can be performed in these patients with relatively low complication rates. Confirmation of these results in randomized trials should be considered.

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