Background. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has been increasingly utilized for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Long-term results of RFA, especially in comparison to surgical resection, have not been well described.
Methods. Eighty-seven patients with single nodule HCC underwent surgical resection (N=47) or RFA (N=40) during a 9-year period. RFA was performed for 36 unresectable disease and 4 surgical refusals. Each group was further divided based on tumor size for analysis; Group 1: resection, 5 cm (N=18), Group 2: RFA, 5 cm (N=26), Group 3: resection, >5 cm (N=29) and Group 4: RFA, >5 cm (N=14). Follow-up ranged from 2 to 72 months (median 16 months). Patients' characteristics, local recurrences and overall and disease-free survivals were compared.
Results. Patients who underwent RFA were older (69 versus 60, p=0.0006), had more advanced Child-Pugh class and TNM stage (p=0.0002 and p=0.016, respectively), and had smaller tumors (4.6 versus 7.4 cm, p=0.0032). Local recurrence rates were 2% for resection and 10% for RFA (p=0.12). These local and other recurrences were subsequently treated with multimodal therapies as indicated. The median overall and disease-free survivals were equivalent both between Groups 1 and 2 (49 versus 51 months, p=0.44, 36 versus 22 months, p=0.84), and Groups 3 and 4 (47 versus >63 months, p=0.94, 28 versus 20 months, p=0.67).
Discussion. Although the groups were not truly comparable, this retrospective study suggests that RFA may offer similar long-term results to surgical resection for single nodule HCC when combined with multimodal treatments.