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J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2007 Dec;18(12):1517-26; quiz 1527.

Transarterial chemoembolization for primary hepatocellular carcinoma in patients at high risk.

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  • 1Division of Interventional Radiology, Stanford University Medical Center, 300 Pasteur Drive, Room H3652, Stanford, CA 94305-5642, USA.



Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) has become a standard treatment option for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This retrospective study evaluated the safety and efficacy of TACE in patients at high risk with increased serum bilirubin level, low serum albumin level, poor hepatic reserve, or compromised hepatopetal flow in the portal vein (PV).


A total of 52 patients underwent 65 high-risk procedures. Thirty patients treated with 38 procedures (57.7% of patients and 58.5% of procedures) had serum bilirubin levels of 2-3 mg/dL (ie, moderate elevation) and 22 patients treated with 27 procedures (42.3% and 41.5%) had a serum bilirubin level of at least 3 mg/dL (ie, considerable elevation). Forty patients (76.9%) had serum albumin levels less than 3.5 mg/dL. Thirteen recipients of 15 procedures (25% and 20%) had portal diversion or obstruction. Twenty-four patients (46.2%) had a Child-Pugh (CP) score of 8 or less and 28 patients (53.8%) had a CP score of at least 9 at the time of TACE. Thirty patients (57.7%) had focal tumors and 22 patients (42.3%) had multifocal or infiltrative disease. Superselective chemoembolization could be performed in 37 procedures (56.9%); lobar chemoembolization was performed in the remaining 28 (43.1%).


The 30-day mortality rate was 7.7% and the procedure-related morbidity rate was 10.8%. Patients with multifocal disease and lobar embolization had significantly higher mortality rates (P=.03). Individual factors such as serum bilirubin, serum albumin, and PV flow did not affect outcomes significantly. The 1- and 2-year survival rates in patients with focal disease were 67.9% and 37.7%, respectively, compared with 19.6% and 0% in patients with multifocal disease (P<.0001).


TACE in patients considered at high risk does not necessarily incur a higher incidence of morbidity or mortality. Patient selection should be based on extent of disease, and these tumors should be treated selectively at a segmental level if possible.

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