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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 May 31;5:CD009497. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009497.pub2.

Electro-coagulation for liver metastases.

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  • 1Kleijnen Systematic Reviews Ltd, York, UK.



Primary liver tumours and liver metastases from colorectal carcinoma are the two most common malignant tumours to affect the liver. The liver is second only to the lymph nodes as the most common site for metastatic disease. More than half of the patients with metastatic liver disease will die from metastatic complications. Electro-coagulation is the coagulation (clotting) of tissue using a high-frequency electrical current applied locally with a metal instrument or needle with the aim of stopping bleeding. The object of this technique is to destroy the tumour completely, if possible, in a single surgical session.


To study the beneficial and harmful effects of electro-coagulation compared with no intervention, to other ablation methods, or systemic treatments in patients with liver metastases.


We searched The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded, LILACS, and CINAHL up to December 2012.


We included one randomised clinical trial that assessed beneficial and harmful effects of electro-coagulation and its comparators in patients with liver metastases, irrespective of the location of the primary tumour.


We extracted relevant information on participant characteristics, interventions, study outcome measures, and data on the outcome measures as well as information on the design and methodology of the trials. Risk of bias of the trials and data extraction was carried out by one author and checked by a second author.


We included one randomised clinical trial that compared four groups: electro-coagulation alone, electro-coagulation + dimethyl sulphoxide, electro-coagulation + allopurinol, and control (Salim 1993). The risk of bias in the trial is high. In three groups, patients had their metastases destroyed with diathermy electro-coagulation (current set at No 5) and received: 1) solution of allopurinol by mouth 5 mL 4 x a day or 2) allopurinol by mouth 5 mL (50 mg) 4 x a day or 3) dimethyl sulphoxide by mouth 5 mL (500 mg) 4 x a day. In the control group patients received a solution of allopurinol by mouth 5 mL 4 x a day. The treatment was started in the fifth postoperative day and was continued for five years. Three hundred and six patients who had undergone resection of the sigmoid colon and who had five or more hepatic metastases were included; 75 received electro-coagulation alone (58 were evaluable), 76 received electro-coagulation plus allopurinol (53 were evaluable), 78 received electro-coagulation plus dimethyl sulphoxide (57 were evaluable), and 77 were in the control group (55 evaluable).The authors reported the number of deaths due to disease spread (100% in the control, 98% in electro-coagulation, 87% in electro-coagulation + allopurinol, and 86% in the electro-coagulation + dimethyl sulphoxide groups). There was a significant benefit in favour of the electro-coagulation + allopurinol (risk ratio (RR) 0.87 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.78 to 0.96)) and electro-coagulation + dimethyl sulphoxide (RR 0.86 (95% CI 0.77 to 0.95)) groups compared to the control group, but no such benefit in the electro-coagulation alone group (RR 0.98 (95% CI 0.95 to 1.02)) compared to the control group. There were no local recurrences, no positive tests for occult blood, and observed pulmonary metastases were always with ultrasonographic evidence of hepatic secondaries and were not significantly different for the experimental groups compared to the control group (electro-coagulation: RR 1.11 (95% CI 0.4 to 3.09)), electro-coagulation + allopurinol (RR 0.86 (95% CI 0.28 to 2.66)), electro-coagulation + dimethyl sulphoxide (RR 0.8 (95% CI 0.26 to 2.48)). None of the adverse events were significantly associated with treatment.


On the basis of one randomised trial which did not describe its methodology in sufficient detail to assess risk of bias and quality, excluded 27% of patients after randomisation due to various reasons, and is probably not free from selective outcome reporting bias, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that in patients with colonic cancer liver metastases, electro-coagulation alone brings any significant benefit in terms of survival or recurrence compared with the control. In addition, there is insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of adding allopurinol or dimethyl sulphoxide to electro-coagulation. The probability for selective outcome reporting bias in the trial is high. More randomised trials are needed in order to sufficiently validate electro-coagulation with or without co-interventions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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