Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) complicating cirrhosis has a high intrahepatic recurrence rate after treatment by surgical resection or percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI). In this study, certain clinical, biochemical, and pathologic parameters were evaluated as risk factors for intrahepatic tumor recurrence in liver segments different from that of the first neoplasm in a group of 57 cirrhotic patients with single HCC < 5 cm treated by PEI.
Methods: After PEI treatment of HCC, the patients were followed for a mean period of 33 +/- 16 months. The following pretreatment parameters were evaluated as predictors of tumor recurrence: age, gender, Child-Pugh score, hepatitis B virus surface antigen, hepatitis C virus antibodies, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level before PEI, alcohol abuse, HCC size, HCC ultrasound pattern, HCC histologic grade, HCC capsule, and time from cirrhosis diagnosis. Furthermore, the posttreatment parameters of the AFP level 1 month after PEI and recurrence of HCC in the same liver segment were also evaluated.
Results: The cumulative 4-year intrahepatic recurrence rate of HCC was 62%. The log rank test indicated that, among pretreatment parameters, time from cirrhosis diagnosis > 6 years (P = 0.05) and AFP level before PEI of > 25 ng/mL (P = 0.00005) were significantly linked to tumor recurrence. Cox's proportional hazards model showed that only AFP level before PEI was independently associated with recurrence (P < 0.002). With regard to posttreatment parameters, an AFP level 1 month after PEI of > 13 ng/mL was shown to be significantly related to tumor recurrence by the log rank test (P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Cirrhotic patients with single HCC treated by PEI who have slightly increased serum levels of AFP before and/or after PEI treatment are at increased risk of intrahepatic tumor recurrence and should undergo a close follow-up program.