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Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2009 Mar;394(2):255-64. doi: 10.1007/s00423-008-0349-8. Epub 2008 Jun 14.

Laparoscopic liver resections for hepatocellular carcinoma. Is it a feasible option for patients with liver cirrhosis?

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  • 1Bilio-Pancreatic Surgery Unit, Università degli Studi di Milano, Ospedale San Paolo, Milan, Italy. rsantambrogio@mclink.it



Laparoscopic surgery has gained growing acceptance, but this does not hold for laparoscopic surgery of the liver, above all for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cirrhosis. This approach mainly includes diagnostic procedures and interstitial therapies. However, we believe there is room for laparoscopic liver resections in well-selected cases. The aim of this study is to assess: (a) the risk of intraoperative bleeding and postoperative complications, (b) the safety and the respect of oncological criteria, and (c) the potential benefit of laparoscopic ultrasound in guiding liver resection.


A prospective study of laparoscopic liver resections for hepatocellular carcinoma was undertaken in patients with compensated cirrhosis. Hepatic involvement had to be limited and located in the left or peripheral right segments (segments 2-6), and the tumor had to be 5 cm or smaller. Tumor location and its transection margins were defined by laparoscopic ultrasound.


From January 1997, 22 out of 250 patients with HCC (9%) underwent laparoscopic liver resections. The mean patient age was 61.4 years (range, 50-79 years). In three patients, conversion to laparotomy was necessary. The laparoscopic resections included five bisegmentectoies (2 and 3), nine segmentectomies, two subsegmentectomies and three nonanatomical resections for extrahepatic growing lesions. The mean operative time, including laparoscopic ultrasonography, was 199 +/- 69 min (median, 220; range, 80-300). Perioperative blood loss was 183 +/- 72 ml (median, 160; range, 80-400 ml). There was no mortality. Postoperative complications occurred in two out of 19 patients: an abdominal wall hematoma occurred in one patient and a bleeding from a trocar access in the other patient requiring a laparoscopic re-exploration. Mean hospital stay of the whole series was 6.5 +/- 4.3 days (median, 5; range, 4-25), while the mean hospital stay of the 19 laparoscopic patients was 5.4 +/- 1 (median, 5; range, 4-8).


Laparoscopic treatment should be considered in selected patients with HCC and liver cirrhosis in the left lobe or segments 5 and 6 of the liver. It is clear that certain types of laparoscopic resection are feasible and safe when carried out by adequately skilled surgeons with appropriate instruments.

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