Surgical Technique of Liver Resection for the Treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma

The incidence of HCC is increasing in the worldwide. Surgery in the form of liver resection or transplantation remains the mainstay of curative treatment for HCC, even though selected patients with small tumours may also be cured with ablation. Liver resection and transplantation are not necessarily two binary choices in most patients and, despite all the debates, are often complementary treatment modalities ideally suited to different patient groups. Thus characterisation of patient and tumour characteristics to guide decision making is vital to achieve the best outcome for patients.

1.Anatomical Resection or Not?
The aim of liver resection in patients with HCC and CLD is that it should be curative with resection of tumour vascular territories and also preserve as much liver volume as possible to prevent postoperative liver failure. EASL guidelines recommend anatomical resection of HCC, whereby the lines of resection match the limits of one or more functional segments of the liver. This is based on evidence suggesting superior oncological outcomes in addition to a reduction in the risk of bleeding and biliary fistula. Although there are no randomised data, a meta-analysis including 2000 patients from 12 non-randomised comparative trials did not show any benefit of anatomical compared with non-anatomical resection in 1-, 3- and 5-year survival, recurrence rate, postoperative morbidity or blood loss . It is practice to perform an anatomical resection for tumours >2 cm, and for smaller tumours in anatomically favourable positions, a wedge with adequate margin is often sufficient. Modifying techniques to maximise parenchymal preservation preserving adequate margins are often the key in these patients.

2. Anterior Approach
The anterior approach, as described by Professor Belghiti , has been advocated for large right-sided tumours. This technique involves transection of the liver parenchyma to the IVC without mobilisation of the liver with the theoretical advantage of less tumour seeding. A prospective randomised controlled trial compared the anterior and conventional approach on 120 patients with large (>5 cm) HCCs. The anterior approach group had less blood transfusion requirements and a significantly longer overall survival (68.1 v 22.6 months; p = 0.006).

3.Parenchymal Transection
As in liver resection for other indications, there is no good evidence to indicate that a single method of parenchymal transection, application of fibrin sealants or intermittent inflow occlusion is beneficial in surgery for HCC. There is also no evidence to suggest that using special equipment for liver resection is of any benefit in decreasing the mortality, morbidity, or blood transfusion requirements. Surgeons should use techniques in which they have been trained and can demonstrate acceptable outcomes.

4. Laparoscopic Approach

Laparoscopic HCC resections are gaining popularity as the approach is more widely adopted across centres. It is important that patients for laparoscopic resection are selected based on the technical capabilities of the surgeon and centre, and the proper mentoring takes place during the learning curve. A summary of published metaanalyses concluded that the laparoscopic approach was associated with improved short-term outcomes (blood loss, complication rates and hospital length of stay) without compromising long-term oncological outcomes. It is worth noting that there are no randomised data; however a number of trials are in progress. Furthermore,their analysis suggested that the incidence of postoperative ascites and liver failure is decreased in the selected group of laparoscopic liver resections . A further metaanalysis of cirrhotic patients up to Child-Pugh B undergoing laparoscopic compared with open liver resection for HCC confirmed these perioperative benefits .

5. Robotic Approach
Although still very much in its infancy, the application of robotic surgery to HCC resection can theoretically yield similar advantages in short-term outcomes to the laparoscopic technique. The only comparative study between robotic and open liver resection for HCC included 183 patients undergoing robotic hepatectomy who were compared using propensity scoring with a cohort of 275 open resections. The robotic group required longer operating time (343 vs 220 min), shorter hospital stays (7.5 vs 10.1 days) and lower dosages of postoperative patient-controlled analgesia (350 vs 554 ng/kg). The 3-year disease-free survival of the robotic group was comparable with that of the open group (72.2% vs 58.0%; p = 0.062), as was the 3-year overall survival (92.6 vs 93.7%; p = 0.431). The associated financial costs of robotic surgery still pose a limitation to its adoption, and it is unclear if this approach is associated with any significant advantages over laparoscopic rather than open resection.

6. Associating Liver Partition with Portal Vein Ligation for Staged
Hepatectomy (ALPPS)/TAE/PVE
ALPPS is still considered an experimental technique in which a first-stage procedure consisting of physical liver splitting and portal vein ligation is followed by a second stage of resection of the HCC and associated liver segments. The advantage seen in colorectal liver metastases is that of rapid hypertrophy for the FLR. There are only limited data describing outcomes of ALPPS for HCC; however an analysis of 35 patients in the international ALPPS registry showed an impressive FLR hypertrophy of 47% following the first stage of the procedure that was associated with a 31% perioperative mortality rate. The majority of these patients were in the intermediate-stage category of the BCLC algorithm. Further evaluation is required prior to routine use of ALPPS for HCC resection, and it is the view of the authors that ALPPS may be a procedure best reserved for carefully selected patients who have bilateral disease.

7. Combined Resection with RFA for Bilobar HCC
For patients with multiple or bilobar HCC in whom resection is contraindicated due to inadequate FLR, combined resection and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) may yield better results than alternative treatments. A single-centre study compared patients with bilobar liver HCCs who underwent resection (n = 89), combination of resection and RFA (n = 114) and TACE (n = 161). The results showed that 1-, 3- and 5-year survival was better in both resection and combined resection, and RFA groups compared with TACE and survival and disease-free survival were comparable between both surgical groups. They concluded that resection combined with RFA provided a chance for cure in patients with bilobar HCC, and provided liver function is preserved, aggressive treatment can improve prognosis.

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