The objective of our work was to evaluate the long-term results of percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with liver cirrhosis. A total of 184 cirrhotic patients with HCC underwent PEI as the only anticancer treatment over an 8-year period. Patients were followed after therapy by means of clinical examinations, laboratory tests, and US and CT studies performed at regular time intervals. Survival rates were determined according to the Kaplan-Meier method. The overall survival was 67% at 3 years, 41% at 5 years, and 19% at 7 years. The 3-, 5-, and 7-year survival rates of patients with single HCC < or = 3 cm (78, 54, and 28%, respectively) were significantly higher (p < 0.01) than those of patients with single HCC of 3.1-5 cm (61, 32, and 16, respectively) or multiple HCCs (51, 21, and 0%, respectively). Survival of Child-Pugh A patients (79% at 3 years, 53% at 5 years, and 32% at 7 years) was significantly longer (p < 0.01) than that of Child-Pugh B patients (50% at 3 years, 28% at 5 years, and 8% at 7 years). A selected group of 70 patients with Child-Pugh A cirrhosis and single HCC < or = 3 cm had a 7-year survival of 42%. Long-term survival of cirrhotic patients with HCC treated with PEI is comparable to that reported in published series of matched patients submitted to surgical resection.