BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) demonstrated good results for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in cirrhotic patients; it is still not clear whether the overall survival and disease-free survival after RFA are comparable with surgical resection. The aims of this study are to compare the overall survival and disease-free survival in two groups of cirrhotic patients with HCC submitted to surgery or RFA. METHODS: Two hundred cirrhotic patients with HCCs smaller than 6 cm were included in this retrospective study: 109 underwent RFA and 91 underwent surgical resection at a single Division of Surgery of University of Verona. RESULTS: Median follow-up time was 27 months. Overall survival was significantly longer in the resection group in comparison with the RFA group with a median survival of 57 and 28 months, respectively (P = 0.01). In Child-Pugh class B patients and in patients with multiple HCC, survival was not significantly different between the two groups. In patients with HCC smaller than 3 cm, the overall survival and disease-free survival for RFA and resection were not significantly different in univariate and multivariate analysis. Whereas in patients with HCC greater than 3 cm, surgery showed improvement in outcome in both univariate and multivariate analysis. CONCLUSIONS: Surgical resection significantly improves the overall survival and disease-free survival in comparison with RFA. In a selected group of patients (Child-Pugh class B, multiple HCC, or in HCC </=3 cm), the results between the two treatments did not show significant differences.
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