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The authors reviewed their institutional experience with liver resection for metastatic colorectal carcinoma to (1) determine whether perioperative blood transfusion affects survival; (2) identify prognostic determinants; and (3) estimate the patient requirement for a prospective randomized trial designed to demonstrate efficacy of liver resection. Two hundred eighty consecutive patients treated by potentially curative liver resection between 1960 and 1987 were included. Data were obtained for all but 10 patients for at least 5 years after operation or through 1990. Actuarial survival curves related to potential prognostic determinants were analyzed with the log-rank test. Overall, survival was 47 ± 3% at 3 years and 25 ± 3% at 5 years, including 4% 60-day operative mortality rate. Eighty-one patients who did not receive blood 7 days before to 14 days after operation had 60 ± 6% 3-year and 32 ± 6% 5-year survival compared with 40 ± 4% and 21 ± 3% survival rates for 183 patients who received at least one unit (p = 0.03, operative deaths excluded). Extra-hepatic disease (p = 0.015), extrahepatic lymph node involvement (p = 0.002), satellite configuration of multiple metastases (p = 0.0052), and initial detection by abnormal liver enzymes (p = 0.0005) were associated with poor survival rates. Synchronous presentation of metastatic and stage B primary disease was associated with a favorable prognosis (p = 0.003). The requirement for a prospective randomized trial estimated by an exponential survival model would be 36, 74, 168, or 428 patients if 5-year survival without resection were 1, 5, 10, or 15%. We conclude that (1) perioperative blood transfusion may be adversely associated with survival; (2) extrahepatic disease, extrahepatic lymph node involvement, satellite configuration, and initial detection by clinical examination or a liver enzyme abnormality portend a poor prognosis; and (3) a prospective randomized trial of liver resection is impractical because of the large patient requirement, at least by a single institution.