Purpose: There is scant data in the literature regarding radiofrequency thermal ablation (RFA) versus resection of colorectal liver metastases. The aim of this study is to compare the clinical profile and survival of patients with solitary colorectal liver metastasis undergoing resection versus laparoscopic RFA.
Methods: Between 1996 and 2007, 158 patients underwent RFA (n = 68) and open liver resection (n = 90) of solitary liver metastasis from colorectal cancer. Patients were evaluated in a multidisciplinary fashion and allocated to a treatment type. Data were collected prospectively for the RFA patients and retrospectively for the resection patients.
Results: Although the groups were matched for age, gender, chemotherapy exposure and tumor size, RFA patients tended to have a higher ASA score and presence of extra-hepatic disease (EHD) at the time of treatment. The main indication for referral to RFA included technical reasons (n = 25), patient comorbidities (n = 24), extra-hepatic disease (n = 10) and patient decision (n = 9). There were no peri-operative mortalities in either group. The complication rate was 2.9% (n = 2) for RFA and 31.1% (n = 28) for resection. The overall Kaplan-Meier median actuarial survival from the date of surgery was 24 months for RFA patients with EHD, 34 months for RFA patients without EHD and 57 months for resection patients (p < 0.0001). The 5-year actual survival was 30% for RFA patients and 40% for resection patients (p = 0.35).
Conclusions: This study shows that, although patients in both groups had a solitary liver metastasis, other factors including medical comorbidities, technically challenging tumor locations and extra-hepatic disease were different, prompting selection of therapy. With a simultaneous ablation program, higher risk patients have been channeled to RFA, leaving a highly selected group of patients for resection with a very favorable survival. RFA still achieved long-term survival in patients who were otherwise not candidates for resection.