Background: Microwave ablation (MWA) has gained relevance in the treatment of hepatic malignancies and especially in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and it is an important alternative to surgery. The purpose of the study was to evaluate whether the minimal ablative margin (MAM) or the initial tumor size has a greater effect on the success of stereotactic MWA of HCC regarding the time to local tumor progression (LTP) and overall survival (OS).
Methods: 88 patients, who received stereotactic MWA of 127 tumor lesions with a curative intention were included in this single-center, retrospective study. The MAM was evaluated in a side-by-side comparison of pre- and post-ablative, contrast-enhanced slice imaging. A Cox proportional hazard model with a frailty term was computed to assess the influence of the MAM and the maximum tumor diameter on the time to LTP and the OS.
Results: The maximum tumor diameter was identified as a significant positive predictor for LTP (hazard ratio 1.04, 95% CI 1.00-1.08, p = 0.03), but it was not a significant positive predictor for the OS (p = 0.20). The MAM did not have a significant influence on LTP-free survival (p = 0.23) and OS (p = 0.67).
Conclusion: For the successful stereotactic MWA of HCC, the MAM and maximum tumor diameter might not have an influence on the OS, but the maximum tumor diameter seems to be an independent predictor of the time to LTP.
Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma; interventional oncology; microwave ablation; stereotactic navigation.