Thirty-two patients with a solitary hepatocellular carcinoma of less than 4 cm diameter were treated during the 13 years from 1971 to 1983, two-thirds of them since 1981. Serum alpha-fetoprotein levels proved to be an excellent diagnostic tool for these early stage carcinomas which are generally asymptomatic. Ultrasonography forms an invaluable test for the detection of occult liver cancer and has enhanced the ability to detect small sized lesions. The accuracy of this method increased from 25 per cent for the period 1971-1980 to 89 per cent for the period 1981-1983. The cumulative survival rates for the 32 patients treated by hepatic resection at 1, 2 and 5 years were 85, 70 and 22.2 per cent (excluded from these figures are four operative deaths giving a 12.5 per cent operative mortality).