Background: The objective of this study was to investigate the use of cryosurgery and to determine whether there is a role for combined therapy with alcohol ablation in the treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma.
Methods: Twelve patients with biopsy proven hepatocellular carcinoma underwent ultrasound-guided cryosurgical ablation of their liver tumor. Postoperative alcohol ablation was performed on those patients who were found to have residual tumor or recurrence after the cryosurgical procedure.
Results: Of the 12 patients (9 males, 3 females) the size of the primary tumor ranged from 3-13 cm with average size of 7 cm in greatest dimension. Most patients had advanced disease according to the TNM staging system: 9 patients had Stage IVA disease, 2 Stage III, and 1 Stage II. Three patients had residual tumors after the cryosurgical procedure. The residual tumor was treated with alcohol ablation. The 1-year survival rate for the entire group was 50% (5 of 10) and the 2-year survival rate was 30% (3 of 10). At last follow-up, 1 patient with an 8-cm tumor was disease free for 3 years and another patient with a 13-cm tumor was disease free for 2.5 years. Both of these patients had Stage IVA disease.
Conclusions: The authors found cryosurgery to be promising in the treatment of this extremely aggressive form of cancer, with the ability to prolong patient survival. Follow-up treatment with alcohol ablation is an important adjunct in treating residual tumor and controlling recurrences.