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Br J Surg. 2004 Mar;91(3):334-8.

Impact of radiofrequency ablation on the management of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in a specialized centre.

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Department of Surgery, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China.



Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has been used increasingly in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of this study was to investigate changes in the treatment pattern of primary HCC following the implementation of RFA in a specialized surgical centre.


This was a retrospective analysis of all 894 patients admitted for treatment of primary HCC over 36 months.


There was no difference in the age, sex ratio, liver function according to Child-Pugh grade, serum alpha-fetoprotein concentration, hepatitis B surface antigen status and tumour size among patients before and after the introduction of RFA therapy. Fifty-one patients (10.6 per cent) with primary HCC received RFA treatment after its implementation. There was a 6.8 per cent reduction in the number of patients who had supportive treatment (P = 0.041) and a 3.2 per cent reduction in surgical treatment. The hospital mortality rates for RFA and surgery were 2.0 and 4.9 per cent respectively. The overall survival rates at 6, 12 and 18 months for patients treated with RFA were 92.2, 73.4 and 61.2 per cent respectively. The corresponding survival rates for the 213 patients who had surgery were 88.0, 77.0 and 71.5 per cent. These values were no different from those in patients who had RFA (P = 0.718). Patients treated with RFA or surgery survived longer than those who had other treatments.


RFA had a significant impact on the management of primary HCC, increasing the number of patients suitable for liver-directed therapy and leading to survival benefit. RFA may become the treatment of choice for patients with irresectable HCC.

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