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Dig Dis. 2009;27(2):148-56. doi: 10.1159/000218347. Epub 2009 Jun 22.

Local ablative therapies in HCC: percutaneous ethanol injection and radiofrequency ablation.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary hepatic malignancy. Surgery and transarterial chemoembolization have for many years dominated the local treatment of HCC. The introduction of image-guided percutaneous techniques for local tumor ablation changed the treatment of liver cancer. Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) have both successfully been employed in the treatment of HCC. In current guidelines both techniques are recommended as standard therapy in limited liver cancer. From the current literature both techniques have to be considered safe and effective in the treatment of HCC. Several randomized trials showed RFA to be superior to PEI for treating small HCC. Moreover, several studies analyzed survival after PEI or RFA in comparison with surgery, proving interventional therapy to be a serious competitor of resection. With introduction of combined interventional therapies including transarterial chemoembolization, PEI and RFA survival was improved further. In this article, we provide an insight into the technical basics of PEI and RFA and review the clinical results and indications of these interventional techniques in the treatment of HCC.

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