Radiofrequency ablation versus partial nephrectomy for the treatment of clinical stage 1 renal masses: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Over the past two decades, the clinical presentation of renal masses has evolved, where the rising incidence of small renal masses (SRMs) and concomitant minimal invasive treatments have led to noteworthy changes in paradigm of kidney cancer. This study was to perform a proportional meta-analysis of observational studies on perioperative complications and oncological outcomes of partial nephrectomy (PN) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA).


The US National Library of Medicine’s life science database (Medline) and the Web of Science were exhaustly searched before August 1, 2013. Clinical stage 1 SRMs that were treated with PN or RFA were included, and perioperative complications and oncological outcomes of a total of 9 565 patients were analyzed.


Patients who underwent RFA were significantly older (P <0.001). In the subanalysis of stage T1 tumors, the major complication rate of PN was greater than that of RFA (laparoscopic partial nephrectomy (LPN)/robotic partial nephrectomy (RPN): 7.2%, open partial nephrectomy (OPN): 7.9%, RFA: 3.1%, both P <0.001). Minor complications occurred more frequently after RFA (RFA: 13.8%, LPN/RPN: 7.5%, OPN: 9.5%, both P <0.001). By multivariate analysis, the relative risks for minor complications of RFA, compared with LPN and OPN, were 1.7-fold and 1.5-fold greater (both P <0.01), respectively. Patients treated with RFA had a greater local progression rate than those treated by PN (RFA: 4.6%, LPN/RPN: 1.2%, OPN: 1.9%, both P <0.001). By multivariate analysis, the local tumor progression for RFA versus LPN/RPN and OPN were 4.5-fold and 3.1-fold greater, respectively (both P <0.001).


The current data illustrate that both PN and RFA are viable strategies for the treatment of SRMs. Compared with PN, RFA showed a greater risk of local tumor progression but a lower major complication rate, which is considered better for poor candidates. PN is with no doubt the golden treatment for SRMs, and LPN has been widely accepted as the first option for nephron-sparing surgery by experienced urologists. RFA may be the best option for select patients with significant comorbidity.

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