Background/aim: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is used to treat primary and metastatic tumors in the liver. However, local recurrence after RFA is frequent and subsequent salvage hepatectomy is often ineffective due to difficulty in visualization of tumor margins. Patients and methods: In the present retrospective clinical trial, seven patients from the Department of General and Gastro-enterological Surgery, Showa University School of Medicine underwent salvage hepatectomy for recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (n=2), colorectal liver metastasis (n=4) and lung-carcinoid liver metastasis (n=1), after RFA, between 2011 and 2020. Tumors were labeled with indocyanine green (ICG) and resected under fluorescence guidance. Resected specimens were evaluated under fluorescence microscopy as well as by standard histopathological techniques.

Results: Pathological findings revealed negative tumor margins in all patients after fluorescence-guided surgery. Six of seven resected tumors had a fluorescent rim, including both HCC and liver metastasis. Fluorescence microscopy demonstrated that viable cancer tumor cells were located only on the inside of the fluorescent rim, and no malignant cells were detected within the fluorescent rim surrounding the tumor. Fluorescence microscopy showed that the tumor margin was secured if the fluorescence signal was completely resected.

Conclusion: The present results demonstrate that ICG labeling of liver tumors recurring after RFA enabled complete resection under fluorescence guidance.

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