Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation of hepatocellular carcinoma as a bridge to liver transplantation

Hepatology. 2005 May;41(5):1130-7. doi: 10.1002/hep.20688.


Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) can be a definitive treatment for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Prolonged waiting times for cadaveric livers, however, may lead to dropout from the waiting list or worsened post-OLT prognosis as a result of interval tumor progression. Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is widely used for local control of small unresectable HCC, but its pretransplant role remains unclear. We studied the outcome of 52 consecutive patients accepted for OLT bearing 87 HCC nodules and treated with percutaneous RFA. On initial staging, the tumor burden exceeded the Milan criteria in 10 patients. Complete tumor coagulation was observed in 74 of 87 (85.1%) nodules based on postablation imaging. After a mean of 12.7 months (range: 0.3-43.5) on the waiting list, 3 of 52 patients (5.8%) had dropped out due to tumor progression. Forty-one patients had undergone transplantation, with 1- and 3-year post-OLT survival rates of 85% and 76%, respectively. No patient developed HCC recurrence. There were three major complications in 76 RFA procedures (hepatic arterial hemorrhage, small bowel perforation, and liver decompensation salvaged by OLT), without resultant death or dropout. In conclusion, percutaneous RFA is an effective bridge to OLT for patients with compensated liver function and safely accessible tumors. Tumor-related dropout rate and post-OLT outcome compared favorably with published controls of patients with early-stage disease. This can be attributed to the efficacy of RFA in producing local cure or curbing tumor progression during the waiting period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists