Single hepatocellular carcinoma smaller than 2 cm: are ethanol injection and radiofrequency ablation equally effective?

Anticancer Res. 2015 Jan;35(1):325-32.


Background/aim: The impact of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) on survival in patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is unclear. We compared their efficacy in cirrhotics with single HCC ≤2 cm.

Patients and methods: Two hundred forty-four cirrhotics with single HCC ≤2 cm treated with PEI (108 cases) or RFA (136 cases) were enrolled in the study. Eighty-one patients in each group were selected for propensity score matching analysis.

Results: The five-year survival was not significantly different (64.7% in PEI and 72.9% in RFA group) but the 5-year recurrence (73.3% in PEI and 49% in RFA group, p=0.023) and local tumor progression (49% in PEI and 30.1% in RFA group, p=0.018) were higher in the PEI group.

Conclusion: PEI and RFA are equally effective in treating HCCs smaller than 2 cm in terms of 5-year survival, despite higher cumulative and local recurrence rates, in patients treated with PEI.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma; liver cirrhosis; overall survival; percutaneous ethanol injection; radiofrequency ablation; tumor recurrence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery
  • Catheter Ablation
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tumor Burden


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ethanol