Background: Patients undergoing transarterial chemoembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma have advanced tumour or severe cirrhosis and frequently have associated protein-calorie malnutrition. The role of nutritional supplements for such patients is unclear.
Aim: To investigate, in a randomized controlled trial, any benefit of the long-term administration of branched chain amino acids in patients undergoing chemoembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma.
Methods: Forty-one patients received oral branched chain amino acids for up to four courses of chemoembolization and 43 patients did not receive any nutritional supplement. Morbidity, liver function, nutritional status, quality of life and long-term survival were compared between the two groups.
Results: The administration of branched chain amino acids resulted in a lower morbidity rate compared with the control group (17.1% vs. 37.2%, P = 0.039). In particular, the group given branched chain amino acids showed a significantly lower rate of ascites (7.3% vs. 23.2%, P = 0.043) and peripheral oedema (9.8% vs. 27.9%, P = 0.034). Significantly higher serum albumin, lower bilirubin and a better quality of life were observed after chemoembolization in the group given branched chain amino acids. However, there was no significant difference in survival between the two groups.
Conclusions: Nutritional supplementation with oral branched chain amino acids is beneficial in increasing the serum albumin level, reducing the morbidity and improving the quality of life in patients undergoing chemoembolization for inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma.