Liver resection and transplantation for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma

J Hepatol. 2020 Feb;72(2):364-377. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2019.11.020.


The incidence of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA) is increasing worldwide. Although several advances have been made in the past decades to better understand this complex malignancy and to develop new treatment strategies, the prognosis of iCCA remains dismal. Liver resection (LR) is the mainstay of treatment but only a minority of patients are amenable to surgery. In most cases, patients with iCCA will require a major hepatectomy for complete resection of the tumour. This may be contraindicated or increase the surgical burden in patients with chronic liver disease and small remnant liver volume. Lymphadenectomy with a minimal harvest of 6 lymph nodes is considered adequate, as microscopic nodal metastases have been shown in more than 40% of patients. Current 5-year overall survival following LR is in the range of 25%-40%. For locally advanced disease not amenable to upfront LR, neoadjuvant locoregional therapies may be used with the aim of converting these patients to resectability or even to transplantation in well-selected cases. Recent studies have shown that liver transplantation (LT) might be a treatment option for patients with unresectable very-early iCCA (i.e. ≤2 cm), with survival outcomes comparable to those of hepatocellular carcinoma. In patients with unresectable, advanced tumours, confined to the liver who achieve sustained response to neoadjuvant treatment, LT may be considered an option within prospective protocols. The role of adjuvant therapies in iCCA is still under debate. Herein, we review the recent advances in the surgical treatment of iCCA and examine its correlation with locoregional therapies, adjuvant and neo-adjuvant strategies.

Keywords: Adjuvant treatment; Cholangiocarcinoma; Downstaging treatment; Medical treatment; Multidisciplinary approach; Surgical treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic / methods
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / methods
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Hepatectomy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / methods*
  • Lymph Node Excision / methods
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods
  • Patient Selection
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic