Background: Microinvasion (MI), defined as infiltration of the portal or hepatic vein or bile duct and intrahepatic metastasis are accurate indicators of a poor prognosis for mall hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC). A previous study showed that intraoperative ultrasound (IOUS) definition of MI-HCC had a high concordance with histological findings. Aim of this study is to evaluate overall survival and recurrence patterns of patients with MI-HCC submitted to hepatic resection (HR) or laparoscopic ablation therapies (LAT).
Methods: A total of 171 consecutive patients (78 h; 93 LAT) with single, small HCC (< 3 cm) with a MI pattern at IOUS examination were compared analyzing overall survival and recurrence patterns using univariate and multivariate analysis and weighting by propensity score.
Results: Overall recurrences were similar in the 2 groups (HR: 51 patients (65%); LAT: 66 patients (71%)). The rate of local tumor progression in the HR group was very low (5 pts; 6%) in comparison to LAT group (22 pts; 24%; p = 0.002). The overall survival curves of HR are significantly better than that of the LAT group (p = 0.0039). On the propensity score Cox model, overall mortality was predicted by the surgical treatment with a Hazard ratio 1.68 (1.08-2.623) (p = 0.022).
Conclusions: If technically feasible and in patients fit for surgery, HR with an adequate tumor margin should be preferred to LAT in patients with MI-HCC at IOUS evaluation, to eradicate MI features near the main nodule, which are relatively frequent even in small HCC (< 3 cm).
Keywords: Hepatic resection; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver cirrhosis; Liver transplantation; Radiofrequency ablation; Vascular microinfiltration.