Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University School of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan.
Performance status (PS) is closely linked with survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We investigated its impact on treatment strategy for small HCC(s).
A total of 360 and 362 HCC patients within the Milan criteria undergoing surgical resection (SR) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA), respectively, were prospectively enrolled. Patients were classified into PS 0 (n = 558) and PS ≥1 (n = 164) groups. Propensity score analysis was performed, and 168 and 35 matched pairs were selected from patients with PS 0 and ≥1, respectively.
The SR group was younger and had a higher male-to-female ratio, higher prevalence of hepatitis B, lower prevalence of hepatitis C, better PS, better liver functional reserve, and larger tumor burden than the RFA group (all p < 0.05). Among patients with PS 0, the SR group was consistently younger, less cirrhotic, and had larger tumor burden (all p < 0.05). The long-term survival was comparable between SR and RFA group in patients with PS 0. After propensity score matching, SR provided significantly better long-term survival than RFA for patients within the Milan criteria classified as PS 0 (p = 0.016); the Cox proportional hazards model showed consistent results. There was no significant difference of overall survival between the SR and RFA group in patients with PS ≥1 before or after propensity score matching (both p > 0.05).
For HCC patients within the Milan criteria and classified as PS 0, SR provides a better long-term survival compared with RFA. Performance status may enhance treatment selection and stratify the risk of survival in these patients.