Comparative assessment of the safety and effectiveness of radiofrequency ablation among elderly medicare beneficiaries with hepatocellular carcinoma

Nader N. Massarweh, James O. Park, Raymond S.W. Yeung, David R. Flum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) use among patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has increased dramatically over the last decade, but assessments outside specialized centers are lacking. This population-based study was intended to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of RFA when used to treat HCC. Methods. A cohort study of HCC patients (diagnosed 2002-2005) was performed using linked Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare data. Early (≤90-day) mortality and readmission as well as survival among patients undergoing RFA, resection, or no treatment were compared using multivariate and propensity score adjusted Poisson and Cox regression models. Results. Of 2631 patients (mean age 76.1 ± 6.1 years, 65.9% male), 16% underwent RFA (49.6%) or resection (50.4%). Early mortality (13.6 vs. 18.7%, P = .16) and readmission (34.5 vs. 32.1%, P = .60) rates were similar among RFA and resection patients. The 1-year survival after RFA and resection was similar (72.2 vs. 79.7%, P = .18), but beyond 3 years there was a survival benefit among patients undergoing resection (39.2 vs. 58.0%, P<.001). Patients treated with RFA as a sole therapeutic intervention in the 1st year had a similar hazard of death compared with untreated patients (hazard ratio [HR] 0.84, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.54-1.33). Conclusions. In the general community, patients treated with RFA have a similar risk of early adverse events compared with those treated with resection with no clear survival benefit when used as a sole intervention. Although RFA has been described as a safe and effective treatment for HCC at specialized centers, this experience may not extrapolate to the general community and requires further evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1058-1065
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

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