Background/aims: This retrospective study was undertaken to obtain information relevant to the therapeutic strategy in single hepatocellular carcinoma associated with Child's A and B cirrhosis.
Methods: From a total of 1108 consecutive patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, 391 patients with single, small (< or = 5 cm) hepatocellular carcinoma (260 in Child A class and 131 in Child B class) were observed: 120 were treated by surgical resection, 155 by percutaneous ethanol injection and 116 were untreated. The end point of the study was 3-year survival. The log rank test was used to compare survival among the different groups.
Results: In the Child A group the cumulative 3-year survival was 79% for surgery, 71% for percutaneous ethanol injection and 26% for no treatment (p < 0.001 for surgery versus no treatment, p < 0.001 for percutaneous ethanol injection vs no treatment). In patients comparable to the surgical group, i.e. potentially operable, survival was 80% for percutaneous ethanol injection and 30% for no treatment. In the Child B group the 3-year survival was 40% for surgery, 41% for percutaneous ethanol injection and 13% for no treatment (p < 0.01 for surgery vs no treatment and p < 0.001 for percutaneous ethanol injection vs no treatment).
Conclusions: Surgery and percutaneous ethanol injection improve survival in single hepatocellular carcinoma associated with Child A and B cirrhosis compared to untreated patients in the same Child class. A controlled study to identify factors affecting the choice of treatment is justified.