In the treatment of early and intermediate hepatocellular carcinoma, the range of indications for percutaneous ablation techniques is becoming wider than surgery or intra-arterial therapies. Indeed, whereas for some years only patients with up to three small tumors were treated, with the introduction of the single-session percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI), performed under general anesthesia, even patients with more advanced disease are now being treated. Although it is understood that partial resection assures the highest local control, the survival rates after surgery are roughly comparable with PEI. The explanation for this is a balance among the advantages and disadvantages of the two therapies. PEI survival curves are better than curves for resected patients who present adverse prognostic factors, and this means that surgery needs a better selection of the patients. Indications for both therapies are reported. An open question remains the choice between PEI and other new ablation procedures. In our department we currently use radiofrequency ablation in the majority of patients but consider PEI and segmental transarterial chemoembolization complementary, and use them according to the features of the disease and the response.
Copyright 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel