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Hepatogastroenterology. 1997 Mar-Apr;44(14):508-13.

Early detection of recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Surgery II, Faculty of Medicine, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.



Early detection and treatment of recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are keys to patient survival after hepatic resection. In attempts at early detection, we make use of the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test every month and abdominal ultrasound (US) and computed tomography (CT) are carried out every three months after hepatectomy. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the most appropriate interval for follow-up re-examinations after resection for HCC.


Eighty-five patients with recurrent HCC were divided into two groups according to the state of the tumor when recurrence was detected: Group I (n = 70); tumor size < or = 2.0 cm, and group II (n = 15); tumor size > or = 2.1 cm. Clinicopathological comparisons were made between the two groups.


AFP positivity in group I was significantly lower than group II at the time of recurrence. Rates of extrahepatic intra-abdominal recurrences, i.e. recurrence at the surgical stump and in the abdominal cavity and lymph nodes around the liver, were more frequent in group II than in group I (47% vs 4%; p < 0.001). The average tumor size was larger in 10 patients with extrahepatic intra-abdominal recurrence than in 75 patients with intrahepatic recurrence (3.4 +/- 2.0 vs 1.6 +/- 0.6 cm; p < 0.0001). There was a statistically significant difference regarding the histological grade of initial HCC between the two patterns of recurrence.


Measurements of AFP were seen to have limited value for detecting recurrence, at an early stage. Close postoperative follow-up, including bedside US in the outpatient clinic, should be carried out when the initial HCC is histologically less differentiated HCC.

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