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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010 Sep;195(3):758-65. doi: 10.2214/AJR.09.2954.

The minimal ablative margin of radiofrequency ablation of hepatocellular carcinoma (> 2 and < 5 cm) needed to prevent local tumor progression: 3D quantitative assessment using CT image fusion.

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Department of Radiology and Center for Imaging Science, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 50 Irwon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-710, Republic of Korea.



The aim of this study was to elucidate the minimal ablative margin for percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (> 2 and < 5 cm) needed to prevent local tumor progression using CT image fusion and a 3D quantitative method.


From April 2005 to March 2007, we performed percutaneous RFA for the treatment of 382 HCCs larger than 2 cm and smaller than 5 cm. A total of 110 tumors in 103 patients (77 men and 26 women; mean age, 59.7 years) that were previously untreated and were monitored for at least 1 year were retrospectively enrolled. A 5-mm safety margin was attempted in all cases, and a CT finding of complete replacement of the index tumor by RFA zone was defined as technical success. We constructed fusion images of CT images obtained before and after RFA and performed radial multiplanar reformation with the rotation axis at the center of the tumor to analyze the ablative margin quantitatively. Risk factors for local tumor progression (the thinnest ablative margin, tumor size, and the effect of hepatic vessels) were assessed by multivariate analysis.


Patients underwent follow-up for 12.9-46.6 months (median, 28.1 months). The tumors were 2.1-4.8 cm (mean +/- SD, 2.7 +/- 0.6 cm) in diameter. The thinnest ablative margins ranged from 0 to 6 mm (1.0 +/- 1.4 mm). A 5-mm safety margin was achieved in only 2.7% (3/110) of cases. In 47.3% (52/110) of cases, vessel-induced indentation of the ablation zone contributed to the thinnest ablative margins. Local tumor progression was detected in 27.3% (30/110) of cases. Concordance between local tumor progression and the thinnest margin was observed in 83.3% (25/30) of cases. The incidence of concordant local tumor progression was 22.7% (25/110), 18.9% (10/53), 5.9% (2/34), and 0% (0/15) in tumors with the thinnest ablative margin of > or = 0, > or = 1, > or = 2, and > or = 3 mm, respectively. An insufficient ablative margin was the sole significant factor associated with local tumor progression.


When the thickness of the ablative margin is evaluated by CT image fusion, a margin of 3 mm or more appears to be associated with a lower rate of local tumor progression after percutaneous RFA of HCC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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