This systematic review examined whether the available evidence justifies using hepatic resection (HR) during later stages of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which contravenes treatment guidelines but is current practice at many medical centers.
Official guidelines and retrospective studies recommend different roles for HR for patients with large/multinodular HCC or with HCC involving macrovascular invasion (MVI).
Several databases were systematically searched for studies examining the safety and efficacy of HR for treating HCC involving a single large tumor (>5 cm) or multiple tumors, or for treating HCC involving MVI.
We identified 50 studies involving 14 808 patients that investigated the use of HR to treat large/multinodular HCC, and 24 studies with 4389 patients that investigated HR to treat HCC with MVI. Median in-hospital mortality for patients with either type of HCC was significantly lower in Asian studies (2.7%) than in non-Asian studies (7.3%, P < 0.001). Median overall survival (OS) was significantly higher for all Asian patients with large/multinodular HCC than for all non-Asian patients at both 1 year (81% vs 65%, P < 0.001) and 5 years (42% vs 32%, P < 0.001). Similar results were obtained for median disease-free survival at 1 year (61% vs 50%, P < 0.001) and 5 years (26% vs 24%, P < 0.001). However, median OS was similar for Asian and non-Asian patients with HCC involving MVI at 1 year (50% vs 52%, P = 0.45) and 5 years (18% vs 14%, P = 0.94). There was an upward trend in 5-year OS in patients with either type of HCC.
HR is reasonably safe and effective at treating large/multinodular HCC and HCC with MVI. The available evidence argues for expanding the indications for HR in official treatment guidelines.