Assessment of Non-Surgical Versus Surgical Therapy for Localized Hepatocellular Carcinoma

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Localized hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with adequate liver function is typically treated with resection. Non-surgical modalities including trans-arterial embolization have emerged as options for intermediate/advanced HCC. Hypothesizing that non-surgical techniques have expanded to localized disease, we examined treatment patterns, factors associated with surgical therapy, and the impact of modality on survival.


Non-cirrhotic, localized HCC patients were identified from the National Cancer Data Base (2003–2011). Trends were examined using average annual percent change (AAPC). Regression models were developed to determine factors associated with treatment and assess the association of modality with survival.


Of 10,187 patients (median tumor size: 3.7 cm), 6,387 (62.7%) underwent surgery and 3,800 (37.3%) non-surgical therapy. Surgery declined from 61.6% to 44.5% (AAPC, −3.7%; 95%CI, −4.9% to −2.6%, P < 0.001). Non-surgical therapies increased from 17.2% to 39.2% (AAPC 11.4%; 95%CI, 8.8–14.1%, P < 0.001). White race, higher income, and treatment in an academic center (OR = 1.37, 95%CI 1.13–1.66) were associated with surgery. Patients selected for non-surgical therapy had worse adjusted 5-year survival (HR=2.05, 95%CI 1.85–2.26).


Non-surgical therapy has become as common as surgery in the treatment of non-cirrhotic, localized HCC. Randomized studies are needed to compare the effectiveness of treatments for this disease. J. Surg. Oncol. 2016;113:175–180. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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