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Radiology. 2005 Mar;234(3):954-60. Epub 2005 Jan 28.

Radiofrequency ablation of hepatocellular carcinoma: treatment success as defined by histologic examination of the explanted liver.

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Department of Radiology, UCLA School of Medicine, 10833 LeConte Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1721, USA.



To retrospectively evaluate the effectiveness of radiofrequency (RF) ablation of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) by using histologic examination of the explanted liver.


The study was approved by the medical center Institutional Review Board, with waiver of informed consent. Forty-seven HCC nodules in 24 patients (18 men, six women; age range, 33-71 years; mean age, 56 years) were treated with single or double RF ablation sessions prior to liver transplantation. Histologic data from hematoxylin-eosin staining of explanted liver specimens were retrospectively reviewed to determine treatment success, which was defined as the absence of residual or recurrent viable carcinoma cells at treatment site. Tumor size and the presence of large (> or =3 mm) abutting vessels that were observed during imaging were tested as potential predictors of treatment success or failure (Fisher exact test). In patients who underwent postablation computed tomographic (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) imaging within 3 months prior to transplantation (21 patients with 44 tumors), imaging results were analyzed for sensitivity and specificity of residual or recurrent tumor by using histologic data as the reference standard.


Thirty-five (74%) of 47 ablated tumors, including 29 (83%) of 35 tumors less than 3 cm, were found to be successfully treated on the basis of histologic findings after a mean interval of 7.5 months between RF ablation and transplantation. Nodules that were successfully treated had mean maximal diameter of 2.0 cm, and nodules that were unsuccessfully treated had mean maximal diameter of 3.1 cm (P=.014). Seven (47%) of 15 perivascular lesions were successfully treated whereas 28 (88%) of 32 nonperivascular lesions were successfully treated (P <.01). Imaging correlation showed 100% (33 of 33) specificity and 36% (four of 11) sensitivity of postablation CT and MR imaging for the depiction of residual or recurrent tumor.


Histologic evidence directly validates RF ablation as an effective treatment of small (<3 cm) HCC.

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