Comparison of radiofrequency ablation and ablative external radiotherapy for the treatment of intrahepatic malignancies: A hybrid meta-analysis

Chai Hong Rim, Jung Sue Lee, Soo Yeon Kim, Jinsil Seong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and ablative external beam radiotherapy (ablative RT) are commonly used to treat small intrahepatic malignancies. We meta-analysed oncologic outcomes and systematically reviewed the clinical consideration of tumour location and size. Methods: PubMed, Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases were searched on February 24, 2022. Studies comparing RFA and ablative RT, providing one of the endpoints (local control or survival), and encompassing ≥5 patients in each arm were included. Results: Twenty-one studies involving 4,638 patients were included. Regarding survival, the odds ratio (OR) was 1.204 (p = 0.194, favouring RFA, not statistically significant) among all studies, 1.253 (p = 0.153) among hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) studies, and 1.002 (p = 0.996) among colorectal cancer metastasis studies. Regarding local control, the OR was 0.458 (p <0.001, favouring ablative RT) among all studies, 0.452 (p <0.001) among HCC studies, favouring the ablative RT arm, and 0.649 (p = 0.484) among colorectal cancer metastasis studies. Pooled 1- and 2-year survival rates for HCC studies were 91.8% and 77.7% after RFA, and 89.0% and 76.0% after ablative RT, respectively; and for metastasis studies were 88.2% and 66.4% after RFA and 82.7% and 60.6% after RT, respectively. Literature analysis suggests that ablative RT can be more effective than RFA for tumours larger than 2–3 cm or for specific sublocations in the liver (e.g. subphrenic or perivascular sites), with moderate quality of evidence (reference to the grading system of the American Society for Radiation Oncology Primary Liver Cancer Clinical Guidelines). The pooled grade ≥3 complication rates were 2.9% and 2.8% in the RFA and ablative RT arms, respectively (p = 0.952). Conclusions: Our study shows that ablative RT can yield oncologic outcomes similar to RFA, and suggests that it can be more effective for the treatment of tumours in locations where RFA is difficult to perform or for large-sized tumours. Systematic Review Registration: This study was registered with PROSPERO (Protocol No: CRD42022332997). Impact and implications: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and ablative radiotherapy (RT) are non-surgical modalities for the treatment of small intrahepatic malignancies. Ablative RT showed oncologic outcomes at least similar to those of RFA, and was more effective at specific locations (e.g. perivascular or subphrenic locations).

Original languageEnglish
Article number100594
JournalJHEP Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Research Supporting Program of the Korean Association for the Study of the Liver and the Korean Liver Foundation. This study was supported by National Research Fund of Korea (NRF-2021R1I1A2047475).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Internal Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparison of radiofrequency ablation and ablative external radiotherapy for the treatment of intrahepatic malignancies: A hybrid meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this