Liver failure is the commonest cause of postoperative death in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). With the improvement in operative technique and perioperative care, the limit of hepatic functional reserve may be lowered. The aim of this study was to evaluate the postoperative morbidity, mortality and survival rates in patients with an indocyanine green (ICG) retention value higher than 14 per cent, after major hepatectomy for HCC. METHODS: From January 1994 to December 1997, 117 patients underwent major hepatectomy for HCC; 92 patients had preoperative ICG retention at 15 min lower than 14 per cent (median 8.3 (range 1.6-13.8) per cent), while 25 patients had ICG retention greater than 14 per cent (17.4 (range 14.3-35.3) per cent). Data were collected prospectively and analysed retrospectively.

RESULTS: The two groups of patients were similar in terms of age, sex ratio, preoperative platelet count, liver biochemistry, Child-Pugh status and operative procedures performed, but the prothrombin time was significantly longer in the high ICG group. The operative blood loss (1.5 litres), the amount of blood transfused and the number of patients requiring blood transfusion were similar. The postoperative complication rate (41 versus 40 per cent), duration of hospital stay (12 versus 13 days), hospital mortality rate (1 versus 4 per cent) and median survival time (47 versus 45 months) were not significantly different.

CONCLUSION: With meticulous surgical technique to decrease intraoperative blood loss and good perioperative care, selected patients with limited hepatic functional reserve can achieve a good immediate postoperative result and a survival rate similar to that of patients with good hepatic functional reserve.

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