• ablation;
  • hepatitis B envelope antigen;
  • hepatitis B virus DNA;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • recurrence


Background and Aim:  Patients with persistently active hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication are at high risk for progression to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The influence of the viral load of HBV on intrahepatic recurrence after local ablation therapy in patients with HBV-related HCC has not been elucidated. We aimed to evaluate predictors of intrahepatic recurrence and clarify the correlation between viral load and intrahepatic recurrence after percutaneous ablation.

Methods:  Patients with HBV-related, solitary HCC undergoing radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI), between October 2004 and December 2008 were prospectively enrolled. Statistical analyses were performed using the Kaplan–Meier method and Cox regression model to identify risk factors for intrahepatic recurrence.

Results:  A total of 145 patients (male, 81.4%; mean age, 55.3 years) were included. Ninety patients (62.1%) had serum HBV DNA ≥ 2000 IU/mL. The median follow-up duration was 28.9 months (range, 12.0–57.0) and 63 patients (43.4%) experienced intrahepatic tumor recurrence. Multivariate analysis indicated that seropositivity for hepatitis B envelope antigen (HBeAg) was an independent negative predictor of intrahepatic recurrence (hazard ratio, 0.473; P = 0.026) and late (≥ 1 year) recurrence (HR, 0.288; P = 0.012). The serum alpha fetoprotein (AFP) level also significantly predicted late recurrence (HR, 1.001; P = 0.005). However, neither the ablation method nor serum HBV DNA titers were correlated with intrahepatic recurrence.

Conclusions:  These findings show that HBeAg-negativity and serum AFP levels were associated with late intrahepatic recurrence of HCC, implicating HBeAg-negativity as a risk factor for de novo recurrence after percutaneous ablation in HBV-related HCC.