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It is unclear whether anatomic resection achieves better outcomes than nonanatomic resection in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. This study aimed to compare the outcomes of anatomic resection and nonanatomic resection for hepatocellular carcinoma located on the liver surface via one-to-one propensity score-matching analysis.Data from all consecutive patients who underwent liver resection for primary solitary hepatocellular carcinoma at Nara Medical University Hospital, Japan, January 2007– December 2015 were retrieved. Superficial hepatocellular carcinomas were defined as hepatocellular carcinoma that extended to a depth of < 3 cm from the liver surface and measured < 5 cm in diameter. The prognoses of the patients with superficial hepatocellular carcinoma who underwent anatomic resection and nonanatomic resection were compared.In this study 23 patients with superficial hepatocellular carcinoma underwent anatomic resection and 70 patients who underwent nonanatomic resection. The recurrence-free survival rate of the patients who underwent anatomic resection was better than that of the patients who underwent nonanatomic resection (P = .006), while no such difference was observed for nonsuperficial hepatocellular carcinoma. After the propensity score-matching procedure, the resected liver volume and operation time were the only background or clinical characteristics to exhibit significant differences between the anatomic resection (n = 20) and nonanatomic resection groups (n = 20). The recurrence-free survivial rate of the patients who underwent anatomic resection was significantly than that of the patients that underwent nonanatomic resections (P = .030), but overall survival did not differ significantly between the groups (P = .182).Anatomic resection decreases the risk of tumor recurrence and improves recurrence-free survival compared with nonanatomic resection in patients with superficial hepatocellular carcinoma.