Background: Recent reports highlighting reduced mortality rates to less than 1% after hepatic resections have evaluated the management of selected patients. The current risk of liver resection in unselected patients needs to be more clearly defined to appreciate the actual risk of new indications.
Study design: From 1990 to 1997, 747 consecutive patients, including 16 operated in emergency, underwent hepatic resection. Resection was indicated for malignancy in 473 patients (63%). Major resections were performed in 333 patients (45%). An underlying liver disease, including cirrhosis (n = 239) and obstructive jaundice (n = 4), was present in 253 patients (35%). Multivariate analysis of the risk factors for postoperative mortality, morbidity, and transfusion after stratifying patients for the circumstance of the operation and the pathological changes of the remnant liver was performed.
Results: There was no intraoperative death and the overall mortality rate was 4.4%. This rate was 25% after emergency liver resection and 3.9% after elective liver resection (p < 0.001). After elective resection, mortality was significantly higher in patients with cirrhosis (8.7%) or obstructive jaundice (21%) than in patients with a normal liver (1%; p < 0.001). Analysis of this subgroup of 478 patients with normal liver showed that the mortality rate was 0% in 220 patients operated for a benign disease and in 263 patients who underwent minor resections. All five deaths occurred in patients with a malignancy and resulted from extrahepatic complications. In patients with a malignancy, the only independent predictor of death was an associated extrahepatic procedure. The incidence of postoperative complications was 22% and was influenced by the American Society of Anaesthesiology (ASA) score, extent of resection, presence of a steatosis, and an associated extrahepatic procedure. The incidence of major complications was 8% and of reoperation 3%. Perioperative blood transfusion was required in 112 of 478 (23%) and was not associated with increased mortality.
Conclusions: The 1% basic risk of elective liver resection on normal liver suggests that indications of resection for malignancy could be extended, unless an associated extrahepatic procedure is needed. Because of this low basic risk, future studies evaluating resection on normal liver should not consider in-hospital mortality as the only end point.