Systematic review of outcomes of liver resection for early hepatocellular carcinoma within the Milan criteria




Long-term overall survival after liver resection in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) within the Milan criteria has been reported to improve in recent years. This study systematically reviewed the outcomes of surgical resection for HCC in patients with good liver function and meeting the Milan criteria for early HCC, published in the past 10 years.


A literature search was conducted in PubMed for papers on outcomes of surgical resection for HCC published between January 2000 and December 2010. Cochrane systematic review methodology was used for this review. The primary outcome was overall survival. Secondary outcomes included operative mortality and disease-free survival. Studies that focused on geriatric populations, paediatric populations, a subset of the Milan criteria (such solitary tumours) or included patients with incidental tumours were excluded, as were case reports, conference abstracts, and studies with a large proportion of Child–Pugh grade C liver cirrhosis or unknown Child–Pugh status.


Of 152 studies reviewed, two randomized clinical trials and 27 retrospective case series were eligible for inclusion. The 5-year overall survival rate after resection of HCC ranged from 27 to 81 (median 67) per cent, and the median disease-free survival rate from 21 to 57 (median 37) per cent. There was a trend towards improved overall survival in recent years. The operative mortality rate ranged from 0 to 5 (median 0·7) per cent.


Surgical resection offers good overall survival for patients with HCC within the Milan criteria and with good liver function, although recurrence rates remain high. Outcomes have tended to improve in more recent years. Copyright © 2012 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.