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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2006 May;32(4):430-4. Epub 2006 Mar 7.

Influence of operator experience in radiofrequency ablation of malignant liver tumours on treatment outcome.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Luebeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, D-23538 Luebeck, Germany.



Radiofrequency ablation is gaining popularity as the interventional therapy of choice for unresectable hepatic malignancies. However, little attention has been paid to the importance of operator experience in this therapy. This study aims to evaluate the results of RFA treatment dependent on operator experience and learning curve.


Between 2/2000 and 11/2004 we have undertaken 116 RFA procedures to ablate 404 unresectable primary or metastatic liver tumours in 84 patients. The clinical data of all patients were recorded prospectively and treatment results of the first 42 patients (group I) and the second 42 patients (group II) were compared. All patients were treated by the same surgeon or interventional radiologist.


RFA was performed percutaneously in 44 procedures (group I n = 35, group II n = 9), via laparotomy in 64 procedures (group I n = 27, group II n = 37) and via laparoscopy in eight procedures (group I n = 1, group II n = 7). The complication rate was comparable in both groups with 7.9% in group I and 7.5% in group II. Group II had a higher complete ablation rate (96.2 vs 93.7%) than group I. One- and two-year survival rates of 92 and 89% in group II were significantly higher than in group I with 69 and 46% (p = 0.015).


By the experience conditional optimization of indication and performance by a specialized RFA team the results could be improved significantly. The data on hand speak for a considerable learning curve in the RFA and demonstrate the importance of the experience of the therapist for the outcome of the patients.

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