• hepatectomy;
  • prognosis;
  • radiofrequency ablation;
  • small hepatocellular carcinoma


Background and Aim

To determine and compare the adverse events and long-term effectiveness for patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (≤ 3 cm) treated by percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or hepatectomy.


Small HCC from 120 patients were randomized into either percutaneous RFA therapy or hepatectomy group, and the effectiveness and complications of two treatment modalities were analyzed. The complications of post-RFA or hepatectomy, the complete treatment rate, treatment-related mortality, and disease-free and overall survival rate were followed up and conducted.


In patients with small HCC, complete remission rates were achieved in 95% and 96.7% in the percutaneus RFA and hepatectomy groups, respectively (P > 0.05). Hepatic function at day-7 status post-treatment, including albumin and bilirubin levels, were significantly worse in the hepatectomy group (P < 0.01). Compared with the RFA group, the incidence of postoperative complications (27.5% vs 5.0%) and hospital stay (11.8 ± 3.1 vs 4.3 ± 1.5) were significantly higher in the hepatectomy group (P < 0.01). After a mean follow-up of 40 months, 22 patients (36.6%) in the RFA group and 21 patients (35.0%) in the hepatectomy group developed a recurrence (P>0.05). There was no significant difference of the disease-free and overall survival rates at 1, 2, and 3 years between the RFA group and the surgical hepatectomy group (P = 0.443 and P = 0.207, respectively).


In patients with small HCC, percutaneous RFA showed similar local control and long-term survival compared with hepatectomy. Importantly, percutaneous RFA are accompanied with a lower complication rate and shorter hospital stay day.