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Surgical treatment of hilar cholangiocarcinoma in the new era: the Asan experience

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  • A new era of surgical treatment of hilar cholangiocarcinoma: comparison of leading Eastern and Western centers
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Journal of Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Sciences



Both curative resection and minimized in-hospital mortality offer the only chance of long-term survival in patients with hilar cholangiocarcinoma. The reported resectability rates for hilar cholangiocarcinoma have increased by virtue of combined major hepatectomy, but this procedure is technically demanding and still associated with a significant morbidity and mortality that must be carefully balanced against the chances of long-term survival.


Between January 2001 and December 2008, 350 patients with hilar cholangiocarcinoma underwent exploration for the purpose of potentially curative resection, of whom 302 (86.3%) were resected in the Department of Hepato-Biliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine. Combined hepatectomy was carried out in 268 (88.7%) of 302 resected patients. Major hemihepatectomy and parenchyma-preserving hepatectomy were performed in 257 and 11 patients, respectively. Portal vein resection was associated in 40 (14.9%) of 268 hepatectomized patients. To control preoperative cholangitis and reduce risk of postoperative hepatic failure, biliary decompression through endoscopic and/or percutaneous transhepatic drainage and portal vein embolization were preoperatively applied in 329 (94.0%) of 350 explored patients and in 91 (54.2%) of 168 extended hepatectomized patients (154 right hemihepatectomy, 9 right trisectionectomy, 5 left trisectionectomy), respectively. Liver transplantation was not performed as primary treatment for hilar cholangiocarcinoma.


There were 5 cases (1.7%) of in-hospital death after resection and 1 postoperative liver failure that was successfully treated with liver transplantation. Major complications were encountered in 23 patients (7.0%), and the overall morbidity rate was 43%. In 302 resections, 214 (70.9%) were curative resections (R0) and 88 (29.1%) were palliative resections (R1). The overall 1-, 3- and 5-year survival rates after resection, including in-hospital deaths, were 84.6, 50.7 and 47.3% in the R0 group and 69.9, 33.3 and 7.5% in the R1 group, respectively. The 5-year survival rate of extended hemihepatectomy of 36.4% was better than that of parenchyma-preserving hepatectomy at 10.5%. Two significant predictive factors adversely affecting survival after resection were lymph node metastasis and incurability of surgery (P < 0.001). Two patients with vascular involvement who underwent concomitant hepatic artery and portal vein reconstruction are alive after more than 3 years.


Preoperative biliary decompression and portal vein embolization enabled us to reduce in-hospital deaths associated with extended hepatectomy for hilar cholangiocarcinoma. Major hemihepatectomy offers an increased survival because of the higher possibility of curative resection than bile duct resection alone and parenchyma-preserving hepatectomy, but it still carries a certain mortality. Less extensive procedures can be conducted safely and are beneficial for aged patients in poor condition with a less advanced tumor stage if tumor-free resectional margins are obtained.

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Correspondence to Sung Gyu Lee.

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Lee, S.G., Song, G.W., Hwang, S. et al. Surgical treatment of hilar cholangiocarcinoma in the new era: the Asan experience. J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Sci 17, 476–489 (2010).

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