Background: Whether preoperative transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) has the therapeutic benefits in patients with resectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains uncertain. Materials and methods: We retrospectively investigated the influence of preoperative TACE on both disease-free survival and the pattern of recurrence after curative resection. From March 1998 to January 2005, a series of 273 patients who underwent curative resection for HCC were reviewed. Altogether, 120 patients underwent preoperative TACE, and 153 patients did not. We compared disease-free survival and the recurrence patterns between TACE and non-TACE groups, as well as between subgroups, stratified with regard to initial tumor size (≤3 cm, 3-5 cm, >5 cm) and pathologic tumor stage (stage I-II and stage III-IVa). We also compared disease-free survival and the pattern of recurrence among the three groups: complete necrosis, incomplete necrosis, non-TACE groups. Results: The 1-, 3-, and 5-year disease-free survival rates were 76.0%, 57.7%, and 51.3%, respectively, in the TACE group and 70.9%, 53.8%, and 46.8%, respectively, in the non-TACE group. No significant difference was observed in disease-free survival or the pattern of recurrence between the TACE and non-TACE groups. Further analysis of disease-free survival and the pattern of recurrence between subgroups according to initial tumor size and tumor stage showed no significant differences. Complete necrosis of tumor was recognized in only 33 patients of the TACE group (p = 0.001). Among the three complete necrosis, incomplete necrosis, and non-TACE groups, no significant difference was observed in disease-free survival or the pattern of recurrence. Conclusions: Preoperative TACE did not significantly improve the disease-free survival or the pattern of recurrence after curative resection of HCC. Even though this study is a retrospective analysis, preoperative TACE cannot be recommended as a routine procedure before hepatectomy for a resectable HCC.
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