Clinical outcomes of radiofrequency ablation, percutaneous alcohol and acetic acid injection for hepatocelullar carcinoma: a meta-analysis

J Hepatol. 2010 Mar;52(3):380-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2009.12.004. Epub 2010 Jan 17.


Background & aims: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is often the preferred local ablation therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) is less frequently used, and percutaneous acetic acid injection (PAI) has been mostly abandoned. Robust evidence showing benefit of one therapy versus another is lacking. Our aim was to evaluate the evidence comparing RFA, PEI and PAI using meta-analytical techniques.

Methods: Literature search was undertaken until December 2008 to identify comparative studies evaluating survival, recurrence, complete necrosis of tumour and complications. Only randomized clinical trials and quasi-randomized studies were included. Adjusted indirect comparisons were made when direct comparative studies were insufficient.

Results: Eight studies were identified: RFA vs. PEI (n=5), PAI vs. PEI (n=2) and RFA vs. PAI vs. PEI (n=1) including 1035 patients with nine comparisons. RFA was superior to PEI for survival (OR 0.52; 95% CI 0.35-0.78; p=0.001), complete necrosis of tumour and local recurrence. For tumours 2 cm RFA was not significantly better than PEI. PAI did not differ significantly from PEI for survival (OR 0.55; 95% CI 0.23-1.33; p=0.18), and local recurrence but required less sessions. PAI had similar outcomes, except local recurrence, to RFA in the direct and indirect comparison.

Conclusions: RFA seems to be a superior ablative therapy than PEI for HCC, particularly for tumours >2 cm. PAI did not differ significantly from PEI for all the outcomes evaluated. RFA and PAI have similar survival rates. For tumours 2 cm outcome benefits comparing RFA and PEI are similar. PAI needs re-evaluation versus both PEI and RFA for tumours 2 cm.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Acetic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Necrosis / chemically induced
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Publication Bias
  • Regression Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Ethanol
  • Acetic Acid