Objectives: The aim of this study was to compare the clinical effectiveness and cost of percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (PRFA) and surgical resection (SRS) for the management of early stage Hepatocellular Carcinoma.
Methods: A systematic literature search of articles in English, French, and Chinese was performed using online databases. Only articles with patients classified as Child-Pugh Class A or B, with tumor size <5 cm were included. A meta-analysis was carried out to estimate the survival rate and disease-free survival rate following PRFA or SRS treatments. The cost of each treatment was estimated from the third party perspective. Univariate sensitivity analyses were used to study the relative importance of each component cost.
Results: We identified six studies (one randomized controlled trial (RCT) and five comparative cohort studies) meeting our inclusion criteria. There is good evidence that among Child-Pugh A patients for whom both SRS and PRFA are available options, survival rates following either procedure are comparable, while complications are more frequent and hospitalization longer following SRS. The evidence concerning recurrence rates and disease-free survival is less clear. Whereas the RCT indicates comparable outcomes with either procedure up to 3 years, the results of five cohort studies (with possible selection bias), particularly those with a mix of Child-Pugh A and B patients, favor the surgical option. SRS, costs approximately Canadian $8,275 more per case than PRFA.
Conclusions: Continuing doubts on this issue can only be resolved by a substantial RCT. Meanwhile, for early stage HCC patients classified as Child-Pugh A, who despite a possibly higher recurrence rate, prefer the less invasive PRFA to open surgery with its attendant risks, there is sufficient evidence to justify such a choice. For those classified as Child-Pugh (B) it is possible that overall survival is equally good with PRFA, but the evidence is less certain.