Background: Hepatic resection is potentially curative in selected patients with colorectal metastases. It is a widely held practice that multiple colorectal hepatic metastases are not resected, although outcome after removal of four or more metastases is not well defined.
Methods: Patients with four or more colorectal hepatic metastases who submitted to resection were identified from a prospective database. Number of metastases was determined by serial sectioning of the gross specimen at the time of resection. Demographic data, tumor characteristics, complications, and survival were analyzed.
Results: From August 1985 to September 1998, 155 patients with four or more metastatic tumors (range 4-20) underwent potentially curative resection by extended hepatectomy (39%), lobectomy (42%), or multiple segmental resections (19%). Operative morbidity and mortality were 26% and 1%, respectively. Actuarial 5-year survival was 23% for the entire group (median = 32 months) and there were 12 actual 5-year survivors. On multivariate analysis, only number of hepatic tumors (P = .005) and the presence of a positive margin (P = .003) were independent predictors of poor survival.
Conclusions: Hepatic resection in patients with four or more colorectal metastases can achieve long-term survival although the results are less favorable as the number of tumors increases. Number of hepatic metastases alone should not be used as a sole contraindication to resection, but it is clear that the majority of patients will not be cured after resection of multiple lesions.