Background: In situ ablation has potential for the treatment of patients with liver cancer either as a single-modality treatment or in combination with liver resection.
Methods: Laparoscopy and intraoperative ultrasonography was used to target cryotherapy and radiofrequency ablation. Thirty-eight patients with 146 liver lesions were treated between January 1995 and December 2000 using cryotherapy alone (nine patients), combined cryotherapy and radiofrequency (eight), radiofrequency alone (15) and in situ ablation with liver resection (six). Cancers treated were metastases from colorectal tumours (n = 25), hepatocellular carcinoma (n = 5), and neuro endocrine (n = 5), melanoma (n = 2) and renal cell (n = 1) metastases. Complications and survival after in situ ablation were compared with age- and disease-matched controls treated with systemic chemotherapy.
Results: The mean age was 61.6 years. At mean follow-up of 26.6 (range 3-62, median 26) months, 22 patients were alive. Survival was increased following in situ ablation compared with that in controls (P < 0.001). Local recurrence at the ablation site was noted in 12 of 44 lesions following cryotherapy and in 20 of 102 lesions after radiofrequency ablation, and new disease in the liver was found in six of 17 and six of 29 patients respectively. The complication rate was higher with cryotherapy than with radiofrequency ablation (four of 17 versus one of 29). Intraoperative ultrasonography identified 14 new hepatic lesions (10 per cent) not seen on preoperative imaging.
Conclusion: Laparoscopic in situ ablation should include ultrasonography to stage the disease. In situ ablation appears to have a survival benefit and should be considered for the treatment of liver cancer in appropriate patients.