• hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • meta-analysis;
  • radiofrequency ablation;
  • resection


Background and Aim:  To evaluate the evidence comparing radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and surgical resection (RES) on the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) using meta-analytical techniques.

Methods:  Literature search was undertaken until March 2011 to identify comparative studies evaluating survival rates, recurrence rates, and complications. Pooled odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated with either the fixed or random effect model.

Results:  These studies included a total of 877 patients: 441 treated with RFA and 436 treated with RES. The overall survival was significantly higher in patients treated with RES than RFA at 1, 3 and 5 years (respectively: OR: 0.50, 95% CI: 0.29–0.86; OR: 0.51, 95% CI: 0.28–0.94; OR: 0.62, 95% CI: 0.45–0.84). In the RES group the 1, 3, and 5 years recurrence-free survival rates were significantly higher than the RFA group (respectively: OR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.44–0.97; OR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.47–0.89; OR: 0.52, 95% CI: 0.35–0.77). RFA had a higher rate of local recurrence (OR: 4.08, 95% CI: 2.03–8.20). For tumors ≤ 3 cm RES was better than RFA in the 3-year overall survival rates (OR: 0.38, 95% CI: 0.16–0.89).

Conclusions:  Surgical resection was superior to RFA in the treatment of HCC. However, the findings have to be carefully interpreted due to the lower level of evidence.