Background: Transarterial oily chemoembolization (TOCE) is frequently employed as a non-operative treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Serious complications of TOCE are well known but ruptured HCC as a fatal complication of TOCE has not been reported previously.
Methods: A retrospective study was performed on all patients who received TOCE for treatment of HCC from January 1989 to October 1996; the complication of ruptured HCC within 2 weeks from the procedure was recorded.
Results: During the study period, 391 patients received a total of 1443 sessions of TOCE (mean 3.7 sessions per patient) for the treatment of HCC, with an overall median survival of 10.4 months. Six patients developed ruptured tumour within 2 weeks after TOCE, resulting in an overall incidence of 1.5 per cent per patient or 0.4 per cent per procedure. All except one patient died 1-25 days after tumour rupture. Factors common to these six patients included: (1) male sex; (2) large tumour size (range 8-17 cm in diameter); (3) tumour located in the right lobe of the liver; (4) tumour ruptured after the first session of TOCE; and (5) TOCE performed as primary treatment without previous hepatic resection.
Conclusion: Ruptured HCC is a serious complication of TOCE although the incidence is low. It occurred predominantly in men after the first session of TOCE for a large irresectable tumour of the right lobe.