Small hepatocellular carcinoma: treatment with radio-frequency ablation versus ethanol injection

Radiology. 1999 Mar;210(3):655-61. doi: 10.1148/radiology.210.3.r99fe40655.


Purpose: To compare the effectiveness of radio-frequency (RF) ablation with that of percutaneous ethanol injection in the treatment of small hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Materials and methods: Eighty-six patients with 112 small (< or = 3-cm-diameter) HCCs underwent RF ablation (42 patients with 52 tumors) or percutaneous ethanol injection (44 patients with 60 tumors). Therapeutic efficacy was evaluated with dual-phase spiral computed tomography performed at least 4 months after treatment.

Results: Complete necrosis was achieved in 47 of 52 tumors with RF ablation (90%) and in 48 of 60 tumors with percutaneous ethanol injection (80%). These results were obtained with an average of 1.2 sessions per tumor with RF ablation and 4.8 sessions per tumor with percutaneous ethanol injection. One major complication (hemothorax that required drainage) and four minor complications (intraperitoneal bleeding, hemobilia, pleural effusion, cholecystitis) occurred in patients treated with RF ablation; no complications occurred in patients treated with percutaneous ethanol injection.

Conclusion: RF ablation results in a higher rate of complete necrosis and requires fewer treatment sessions than percutaneous ethanol injection. However, the complication rate is higher with RF ablation than with percutaneous ethanol injection. RF ablation is the treatment of choice for most patients with HCC.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation* / adverse effects
  • Catheter Ablation* / methods
  • Cholecystitis / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drainage
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemobilia / etiology
  • Hemothorax / etiology
  • Hemothorax / therapy
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Necrosis
  • Pleural Effusion / etiology
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ethanol