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Combination therapy of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for small hepatocellular carcinoma: comparison with TACE or RFA monotherapy

  • Interventional Radiology
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To compare the safety and efficacy of combined transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for small hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with those of TACE or RFA monotherapy.


This study included 34 combined TACE and RFA (TACE-RFA), 87 TACE, and 136 ultrasound-guided RFA, which were performed to treat HCC (≤ 3 cm, 3 or fewer) between March and August 2009. The safety (Child–Pugh score indicating hepatic functional reserve, patient discomfort requiring medication, duration of hospitalization, and complications) and efficacy (1-month, 6-month, and 1-year tumor responses) profiles of each treatment were evaluated and compared.


TACE-RFA group showed longer hospital stay and more frequent patient discomfort requiring medication than TACE or RFA group (P < 0.001). The frequency of overall complications after TACE-RFA was higher than TACE (P = 0.006) or RFA (P = 0.009). There were no statistical differences in major complication rates between the three groups (P = 0.094). Child–Pugh score at 1-month follow-up showed no significant difference between the three groups (P = 0.162). 1-month, 6-month, and 1-year tumor responses of TACE-RFA were similar to those of RFA and better than those of TACE.


TACE-RFA appears to result in more frequent patient discomfort requiring medication, longer hospital stay, and more frequent complications than TACE or RFA monotherapy. Tumor response of TACE-RFA seems to be similar to that of RFA and better than TACE monotherapy. Thus, TACE-RFA for treating small HCC may be required for the selected patients, especially patients with small HCC ineligible for RFA monotherapy.

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Correspondence to Sung Ki Cho.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.

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Kim, W., Cho, S.K., Shin, S.W. et al. Combination therapy of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for small hepatocellular carcinoma: comparison with TACE or RFA monotherapy. Abdom Radiol 44, 2283–2292 (2019).

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