BACKGROUND: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a new treatment for liver tumours. Complications encountered after RFA in the Netherlands were evaluated in the present study. METHODS: Between June 1999 and November 2003 patients undergoing RFA of irresectable liver tumours in eight medical centres were registered prospectively. RESULTS: One hundred and forty-three RFA procedures were performed in 122 patients. RFA was combined with partial hepatectomy in 37 instances. Death occurred after two procedures (1.4 per cent), and was mainly due to concomitant partial hepatectomy. A total of 19 major complications occurred after ten procedures, including biliary tract damage (seven patients), liver failure (four), hepatic abscess (three), peritoneal infection (two), intrahepatic haematoma (one), hepatic artery aneurysm (one) and pulmonary embolism (one). Twenty-four minor complications were related to concomitant partial hepatectomy or laparotomy. The overall complication rate was 20.3 per cent and the rate of complications related directly to RFA was 9.8 per cent. CONCLUSION: The procedure-specific complication rate was almost 10 per cent and it is recommended that RFA should be performed only by an experienced team comprising a hepatobiliary surgeon, gastroenterologist, hepatologist and interventional radiologist. Biliary stricture, hepatic vascular damage and hepatic abscesses were the most common major complications.
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