Radiofrequency ablation versus microwave ablation for early stage hepatocellular carcinoma: A PRISMA-compliant systematic review and meta-analysis

Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Oct 23;99(43):e22703. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000022703.


Background: Several randomized control trials (RCTs) were conducted to compare microwave ablation (MWA) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) over the years. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of RFA and MWA for early stage HCC.

Methods: Studies were systematically searched on Emabse, Ovid Medline, PubMed, and Cochrane Library until March 20, 2020. Continuous variables and dichotomous variables were compared using weighted mean difference (WMD) and odds ratio (OR), respectively. For the comparison of overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS), the hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were extracted from univariate analysis or survival plots.

Results: A total of 26 studies (5 RCTs and 21 cohorts) with 4396 patients (2393 patients in RFA and 2003 patients in MWA) were included in our study. Of these patients, 47% received treatment under general anesthesia in the MWA group and 84% in the RFA group (OR = 0.529, P < .001). The median ablation time was reduced in the MWA group (12 minutes) compared with RFA group (29 minutes) (WMD = -15.674, P < .001). In total, 17.6% patients exhibited progression during follow-up in the MWA group compared with 19.5% in the RFA group (OR = 0.877, P = .225). No statistically significant differences were observed between MWA and RFA groups in terms of OS and DFS (HR = 0.891 and 1.014, P = .222 and .852, respectively).

Conclusions: MWA exhibited similar therapeutic effects as RFA in the treatment of early stage HCC. Given the shorter ablation time, MWA can be performed under local anesthesia.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Microwaves / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiofrequency Ablation / methods
  • Treatment Outcome