Liver resection for colorectal metastases

J Clin Oncol. 1997 Mar;15(3):938-46. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1997.15.3.938.


Purpose: More than 50,000 patients in the United States will present each year with liver metastases from colorectal cancers. The current study was performed to determine if liver resection for colorectal metastases is safe and effective and to evaluate predictors of outcome.

Materials and methods: Data for 456 consecutive resections performed between July 1985 and December 1991 in a tertiary referral center were analyzed.

Results: The perioperative mortality rate was 2.8%, with a mortality rate of 4.6% for resections that involved a lobectomy or more. The median hospital stay was 12 days and only 9% of patients were admitted to the intensive care unit. The 5-year survival rate is 38%, with a median survival duration of 46 months. By univariate analysis, nodal status of the primary lesion, short disease-free interval before detection of liver metastases, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level greater than 200 ng/mL, multiple liver tumors, extrahepatic disease, large tumors, or positive resection margin was predictive of poorer outcome. Sex, age greater than 70 years, site of primary tumor, or perioperative transfusion was not predictive of outcome. By multivariate analysis, positive margin, size greater than 10 cm, disease-free interval less than 12 months, multiple tumors, and extrahepatic disease were independent predictors of poorer outcome. Short disease-free interval or multiple tumors were nevertheless associated with a 5-year survival rate greater than 24%.

Conclusion: Liver resection for colorectal metastases is safe and effective therapy and currently represents the only potentially curative therapy for metastatic colorectal cancer. The only absolute contraindication to resection is extrahepatic disease. A randomized trial to examine efficacy of surgical resection cannot ethically be performed. Liver resection should be considered standard therapy for all fit patients with colorectal metastases isolated to the liver.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Hepatectomy*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms, Second Primary
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate