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J Hepatol. 2013 Jul;59(1):89-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2013.03.009. Epub 2013 Mar 22.

Long-term effectiveness of resection and radiofrequency ablation for single hepatocellular carcinoma ≤3 cm. Results of a multicenter Italian survey.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy.



The aim of this study was to compare liver resection and radiofrequency ablation in patients with single hepatocellular carcinoma ≤3 cm and compensated cirrhosis.


The study involved 544 Child-Pugh A cirrhotic patients (246 in the resection group and 298 in the radiofrequency group) observed in 15 Italian centers. Overall survival and tumor recurrence rates were analyzed using the Kaplan Meier method before and after propensity score matching. Cox regression models were used to identify factors associated with overall survival and tumor recurrence.


Two cases of perioperative mortality were observed in the resection group and the rate of major complications was 4.5% in the resection group and 2.0% in the radiofrequency group (p=0.101). Four-year overall survival rates were 74.4% in the resection group and 66.2% in the radiofrequency group (p=0.353). Four-year cumulative HCC recurrence rates were 56% in the resection group and 57.1% in the radiofrequency group (p=0.765). Local tumor progression was detected in 20.5% of ablated patients and in one resected patient (p<0.001). After propensity score matching, both survival and tumor recurrence were still not significantly different although a trend towards lower recurrence was observed in resected patients. Older age and higher alpha-fetoprotein levels were independent predictors of poor overall survival while older age and higher alanine-aminotransferase levels resulted to be independent factors associated with higher recurrence rate.


In spite of a higher rate of local tumor progression, radiofrequency ablation can provide results comparable to liver resection in the treatment of single hepatocellular carcinoma ≤3 cm occurring in compensated cirrhosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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