Background/aims: Neuroendocrine tumors are usually slow growing and carry a prolonged prognosis. The presence of liver metastases significantly impairs long-term survival. The clinical experience with 28 patients admitted since 1981 for liver metastases from neuroendocrine tumors was retrospectively reviewed to analyze the clinical and surgical management and to evaluate their outcome.
Methodology: Surgery was indicated in 25 (89.2%) patients. Three had metachronous metastases. A correct diagnosis of these liver metastases was achieved before laparotomy in 15 (68.1%) of the remaining 22. The primary tumor site, unknown in 14/22 patients, was located during surgery only in 8 (57.1%).
Results: Due to tumoral spread, surgery was limited to exploration in 3 cases. Liver resections were performed in 19/22 patients (3 for palliation): 11/19 (57.9%) were major hepatectomies and in 8/19 (42.1%) cases they were accomplished by procedures for removing the primary tumor. Overall, curative procedures were carried out in 16/28 (57.1%). Resections were performed in 6 cases without the knowledge of the primary site. There was no operative mortality. Overall recurrence rate was 50.0%. Four-year actuarial survival was 92.6% after resection and 18.5% for patients that did not receive surgery (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Our experience confirms that the small number of patients makes the management of liver metastases from neuroendocrine tumors difficult to plan. In consideration of the satisfactory results achieved with an aggressive policy of resection, we advise referral of these patients to specialized liver units where major hepatic procedures, even if extended, can be safely performed.