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Ann Surg. 2005 Jul;242(1):36-42.

Percutaneous ethanol injection versus surgical resection for the treatment of small hepatocellular carcinoma: a prospective study.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.



To compare disease recurrence and survival among patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma after surgical resection or percutaneous ethanol injection therapy, 2 treatments that have not been evaluated with a prospective study.


A total of 76 patients were randomly assigned to 2 groups based on treatment; all had one or 2 tumors with diameter </=3 cm, with hepatitis without cirrhosis or Child class A or B cirrhosis without evident ascites or bleeding tendency.


Follow-up ranged from 12 to 59 months. Among percutaneous injection patients, 18 had recurrence 1 to 37 months after treatment (true recurrence, 11; original safety margin inadequate, 3; limitation of imaging technology to detect tiny tumors, 4). Three injection therapy patients died of cancer 25, 37, and 57 months after treatment. For the surgical resection group, 15 had recurrence 2 to 54 months after treatment (true recurrence, 12; limitation of imaging, 2; neck metastasis, 1). Five resection patients died of cancer at 11, 20, 23, 26, and 52 months, respectively. By Cox regression model and Kaplan-Meier survival analysis, there is no statistical significance for recurrence and survival between treatment groups. However, tumor size larger than 2 cm and alpha-fetoprotein over 200 ng/mL correlated with higher recurrence rate, and Child class B liver cirrhosis correlated with shorter survival.


Percutaneous ethanol injection therapy appears to be as safe and effective as resection, and both treatments can be considered first-line options for small hepatocellular carcinoma.

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