Source Department of Gastroenterology and Metabolism, Nagoya City University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Nagoya, Japan.
BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to clarify important risk factors for distant recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients positive for hepatitis C and without local recurrence.
METHODS: A total of 212 patients (145 males and 67 females) underwent radiofrequency ablation and transcatheter arterial embolization or transcatheter arterial chemoembolization at initial development of hepatocellular carcinoma. All patients were positive for hepatitis C. Child-Pugh classification was A in 115 and B in 97. The indication for radiofrequency ablation was the presence of up to three tumors ≤ 3 cm. The distant recurrence rate was analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method and tested by Wilcoxon's method.
RESULTS: Cumulative distant recurrence rates at years 1, 3, and 5 were 19%, 62%, and 79%, respectively. On univariate analysis, a ≥ 3 cm tumor, ≥ 50 ng/mL α-fetoprotein level, and < 3.6 g/dL serum albumin level were significant risk factors for distant recurrence, but only a serum albumin level < 3.6 g/dL (P = 0.004) was identified as significant on multivariate analysis. In the group with a pretreatment albumin level ≥ 3.6 g/dL, the distant recurrence rate was compared between patients in whom the albumin level rose, remained unchanged, or decreased by < 0.3 g/dL, and those in whom the level decreased by ≥ 0.3 g/dL. The rate was significantly higher in the latter, with a one-year recurrence rate of 7% versus 15% (P = 0.04).
CONCLUSION: Distant recurrence was significantly decreased in patients with a high serum albumin level. Distant recurrence was more likely to occur in patients with a decreased albumin level, although the pretreatment level was high. Thus, strict follow-up after treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma is necessary in patients with low serum albumin levels.