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Gastroenterology. 2005 Jul;129(1):122-30.

A randomized controlled trial of radiofrequency ablation with ethanol injection for small hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Gastroenterology, University of Tokyo, Japan.



Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation is a recently introduced treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma, whereas ethanol injection is now a standard therapy. We compared their long-term outcomes.


Two hundred thirty-two patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who had 3 or fewer lesions, each 3 cm or less in diameter, and liver function of Child-Pugh class A or B were entered onto a randomized controlled trial. The primary end point was survival, and the secondary end points were overall recurrence and local tumor progression.


One hundred eighteen patients were assigned to radiofrequency ablation and 114 to ethanol injection. The number of treatment sessions was smaller (2.1 times vs 6.4 times, respectively, P < .0001) and the length of hospitalization was shorter (10.8 days vs 26.1 days, respectively, P < .0001) in radiofrequency ablation than in ethanol injection. Four-year survival rate was 74% (95% CI: 65%-84%) in radiofrequency ablation and 57% (95% CI: 45%-71%) in ethanol injection. Radiofrequency ablation had a 46% smaller risk of death (adjusted relative risk, 0.54 [95% CI: 0.33-0.89], P = .02), a 43% smaller risk of overall recurrence (adjusted relative risk 0.57 [95% CI: 0.41-0.80], P = .0009), and an 88% smaller risk of local tumor progression (relative risk, 0.12 [95% CI: 0.03-0.55], P = .006) than ethanol injection. The incidence of adverse events was not different between the 2 therapies.


Judging from higher survival but similar adverse events, radiofrequency ablation is superior to ethanol injection for small hepatocellular carcinoma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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