Background: Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) is the second most common primary liver cancer and constitutes 10% of primary liver malignancies. Surgery is the optimal therapy; the majority of the patients will require extensive resections that are associated with significant morbidity.
Methods: We retrospectively studied the records of 26 patients who underwent exploratory laparotomy for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma between June 1991 and December 1997 at the Mount Sinai Hospital. Patients with perihilar (Klatskin) tumors were excluded. All patients were considered resectable based on CT or MRI findings. Patients with positive margins or nodal invasion received adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation.
Results: Sixteen patients underwent 18 resections; in 10 patients the tumors were unresectable at laparotomy and only biopsy was performed. The mean age (62 versus 53 years) was significantly higher, and the mean total bilirubin level (0.71 versus 6.17 mg/dL) was significantly lower in the resected group (p=0.031 and 0.017, respectively). No patient with a total bilirubin over 1.2 mg/dL was found to be resectable. Median actuarial survivals were 42.9+/-8.9 months for resectable and 6.7+/-3.6 months for unresectable patients (p=0.005). Positive margins were associated with significantly shorter disease-free survival. But resected patients with positive margins survived significantly longer than those who were unresectable. Tumor size, presence of satellite nodules, and degree of tumor necrosis on histologic examination were significant predictors of outcomes. Survival among patients receiving adjuvant therapy was not significantly altered.
Conclusions: We conclude that an aggressive surgical approach is warranted in patients with ICC because resection offers the only hope for longterm survival. Our findings emphasize the importance of achieving tumor-free margins. Noncurative resection offers a survival advantage over no resection. Histologic examination of resected specimens can help select patients with poor prognoses.