Radiofrequency ablation versus hepatic resection for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinomas 2 cm or smaller: a retrospective comparative study

Zhen-Wei Peng, Xiao-Jun Lin, Yao-Jun Zhang, Hui-Hong Liang, Rong-Ping Guo, Ming Shi, Min-Shan Chen
Radiology 2012, 262 (3): 1022-33

PURPOSE: To compare retrospectively the effects of percutaneous radiofrequency (RF) ablation with those of hepatic resection in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) measuring 2 cm or smaller.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This study was approved by the institutional ethics committee, and all patients provided written informed consent before treatment. From December 2003 to December 2008, 145 patients with a resectable HCC measuring 2 cm or smaller were studied. Sixty-six patients had a central HCC (located at least 3 cm from the liver capsule). As an initial treatment, 71 patients were treated with percutaneous RF ablation and 74 with surgical resection. Of the patients with central HCC, 37 underwent percutaneous RF ablation and 29 underwent surgical resection. Survival curves were constructed with the Kaplan-Meier method and compared by using the log-rank test. The relative prognostic significance of the variables for predicting overall survival rates was assessed with multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression analysis. Complications were observed clinically when patients were admitted and assessed by telephone interview after patients were discharged.

RESULTS: One death was considered to be related to treatment after surgical resection. Major complications occurred significantly more often in the surgical resection group (38 of 74 patients) than in the RF ablation group (14 of 71 patients) (P = .009). The 1-, 3-, and 5-year overall survival rates were 98.5%, 87.7%, and 71.9%, respectively, with RF ablation and 90.5%, 70.9%, and 62.1% with surgical resection (P = .048). The corresponding recurrence-free survival rates were 76.4%, 65.2%, and 59.8% with RF ablation and 75.6%, 56.1%, and 51.3% with surgical resection (P = .548). At subgroup analysis of patients with central HCC, 1-, 3-, and 5-year overall survival rates were 96.6%, 93.0%, and 79.9% with RF ablation and 92.0%, 71.6%, and 61.5% with surgical resection (P = .020). The corresponding recurrence-free survival rates were 86.5%, 74.0%, and 67.0% with RF ablation and 68.0%, 40.0%, and 40.0% with surgical resection (P = .033). For patients with peripheral HCC, 1-, 3-, and 5-year overall survival rates were 97.3%, 83.3%, and 65.1% with RF ablation and 87.8%, 68.4%, and 62.9% with surgical resection (P = .464). The corresponding recurrence-free survival rates were 68.7%, 59.2%, and 54.9% with RF ablation and 82.9%, 66.6%, and 52.9% with surgical resection (P = .351).

CONCLUSION: The efficacy and safety of percutaneous RF ablation were better than those of surgical resection in patients with HCC measuring 2 cm or smaller, especially those with central HCC.

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