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One-year, two-year, three-year, and four-year survival rates and median survival time for patients with inoperable liver metastases from colorectal cancer is 32, 10, and 3 percent and 7.4 to 11 months, respectively. Systemic chemotherapy produces a modest improvement to 48, 21, and 3 percent and 12 months, respectively. Regional chemotherapy produces a further improvement to 64, 25, and 5 percent and 15 to 17 months, respectively. For those with operable disease, hepatic resection survival rates are 90, 62, 48, and 40 percent, respectively, and survival time is 33 months. Thermal ablation is effective in producing necrosis in liver metastases. We report the impact on survival in 69 patients treated from 1993 to 1997, with follow-up to 1998.Sixty-nine patients, 50 male, mean age 60 (range, 33-87) years were treated. Liver resection was not feasible because of disease extent in the liver, extrahepatic disease or concurrent medical conditions. The average number of liver metastases was 2.9 (range, 1-16), the mean maximal diameter was 3.9 (range, 1-8) cm, and the mean initial total liver tumor volume was 47 (range, 1-371) ml. Eighteen (26 percent) had undergone previous hepatic resection. Sixty-two of 67 (93 percent) received chemotherapy at some stage. Twenty (29 percent) had extrahepatic disease.One-year, two-year, three-year, and four-year survival rates and median survival time from liver metastasis diagnosis was 90, 60, 34, and 22 percent and 27 months, respectively. Forty of 69 (58 percent) developed new liver metastases, and 23 of 69 (33 percent) developed new extrahepatic disease. Of a subgroup of 24 patients with less than four metastases, <5 cm diameter, treated after January 1995, the median survival time was 33 months from first thermal ablation vs. 15 months for the remainder ( P=0.0004). Major morbidity occurred in 3.2 percent, minor morbidity occurred in 12 percent, and there was one periprocedural death.Thermal ablation therapy improves survival in patients with inoperable but limited liver metastases. This is an improvement on the natural history of the disease and published chemotherapy results. Recent and ongoing technical refinements, not reflected in these results, are expected to further improve survival.