Radiofrequency ablation of recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma after hepatectomy: therapeutic efficacy on early- and late-phase recurrence

Wei Yang, Min Hua Chen, Shan Shan Yin, Kun Yan, Wen Gao, Yan Bin Wang, Ling Huo, Xiao Peng Zhang, Bao Cai Xing
AJR. American Journal of Roentgenology 2006, 186 (5): S275-83

OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to assess the efficacy and safety of radiofrequency ablation of recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after hepatectomy and to compare the effects on early- and late-phase recurrence.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We studied 41 patients with 76 recurrent HCC tumors (diameter range, 2.0-6.6 cm; mean, 3.8 +/- 1.3 [SD] cm) after hepatectomy who underwent sonography-guided percutaneous radiofrequency ablation in our hospital (recurrent-HCC group). The interval between surgery and recurrence ranged from 1 to 96 months (mean, 24.5 months). These patients were divided into an early-recurrence group (20 patients with 41 recurrent HCC tumors) and a late-recurrence group (21 patients with 35 recurrent HCC tumors). Early recurrence was defined as that occurring within 1 year after surgery, and late recurrence was defined as that occurring after 1 year. Another 116 patients with 172 primary HCC tumors (diameter range, 1.2-7.0 cm; mean, 3.9 +/- 1.1 cm) treated by radiofrequency ablation were regarded as a control group. No other therapies were given before radiofrequency ablation in any group. Regular follow-up with enhanced CT was performed to evaluate the treatment results. Ablation was considered successful if no contrast enhancement was detected in the treated area on 1-month CT scans. Indexes including ablation success rate, local recurrence rate, distant recurrence rate, and survival were obtained for analysis and comparison.

RESULTS: The ablation success rate, local recurrence rate, distant recurrence rate, and mean overall survival time of the recurrent-HCC group were 93.4% (71/76 tumors), 9.2% (7/76 tumors), 36.6% (15/41 patients), and 30.9 +/- 3.7 months, respectively. The incidence of distant recurrence in the early-recurrence group was significantly higher than that in the late-recurrence group (55.0% vs 19.0%, p = 0.017). The early-recurrence group had a shorter overall survival than did the late-recurrence group (mean overall survival, 16.4 +/- 2.4 vs 42.9 +/- 4.4 months, p < 0.001) or the control group (16.4 +/- 2.4 vs 45.9 +/- 2.5 months, p < 0.001). The survival time of the late-recurrence group was similar to that of the control group (42.9 +/- 4.4 vs 45.9 +/- 2.5 months, p > 0.05). Serious hemorrhage after radiofrequency ablation occurred in one patient in the late-recurrence group and was controlled with conservative treatment.

CONCLUSION: Radiofrequency ablation is generally effective and safe in treating recurrent HCC after hepatectomy and is more effective in late recurrence than in early recurrence.

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