Subclinical hepatocellular carcinoma: An analysis of 391 patients



Subclinical hepatocellular carcinoma (SCHCC) is defined as HCC without obvious HCC symptoms and signs. During 1958–1991, 391 patients with SCHCC were analyzed. In the entire series, 1) 67.3% was detected by natural population screening using alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) serosurvey, while the others were discovered by high-risk population screening or regular health checkup using AFP and/or ultrasonography (US); 2) AFP > 20 μg/L was found in 77.6% of patients; 3) serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was positive in 68.9%; 4) associated liver cirrhosis occurred in 89.1%; 5) the median tumor size was 5 cm, and small HCC (≦ 5 cm) amounted to 61.1%; 6) resection was done in 81.4%, and limited resection was performed in the majority (71.3%); 7) re-resection for subclinical recurrence was done in 44 patients; and 8) cytoreduction and sequential resection was carried out in 13 patients with unresectable SCHCC. Comparison between SCHCC and clinical HCC (n = 1,251) revealed higher resectability (81.4% vs. 46.8%), lower operative mortality (1.9% vs. 6.0%), and higher 5-year survival (entire series: 50.7% vs. 20.6%; resection: 60.5% vs. 36.8%). It is concluded that the study of SCHCC has resulted in marked improvement of ultimate outcome of HCC; screening in high-risk populations using AFP and/or US, limited resection, and re-resection for subclinical recurrence are some of the key features. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.