Two hundred and ninety-one patients with hepatocellular carcinoma were treated by chemoembolization (CE), using ethiodized oil, doxorubicin, and a gelatin sponge. Patients with thrombosis of either the portal vein or a main branch were excluded. The mortality rate in the first 2 months after treatment was 7% in noncirrhotic patients, 2.8% in patients with class A cirrhosis, 8% in patients with class B cirrhosis, and 37% in patients with class C cirrhosis. The tumor diameter remained the same in 55.3% of patients, was reduced by up to 50% in 20% of the patients, was reduced by more than 50% in 7.3% of the patients, and almost completely disappeared in 1.8% of the patients. The diameter of the tumor increased in 15.6% of patients. Forty-three patients underwent a resection or transplantation after chemoembolization. Histologic examination of the specimens revealed significant necrosis of the tumor. The long-term survival rate at 2 years was 49% for class A cirrhotics, 29% for class B cirrhotics, and 9% for class C cirrhotics. Complications included cholecystitis (10%), vasculitis (14%), renal decompensation (13%), an increase in ascites (14%), and jaundice (12%). Chemoembolization is an effective and safe initial treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma. It is effective in producing tumor necrosis and reducing the size of the tumor. Improvement in survival was noted when patients who underwent chemoembolization were compared with an historical series of untreated patients, and resection and transplantation are kept as options.