Objective: To review our 34-year experience with 574 consecutive resections for perihilar cholangiocarcinoma and to evaluate the progress made in surgical treatment of this disease.
Background: Few studies have reported improved surgical outcomes for perihilar cholangiocarcinoma; therefore, it is still unclear whether surgical treatment of this intractable disease has progressed.
Methods: Between April 1977 and December 2010, a total of 754 consecutive patients with perihilar cholangiocarcinoma were treated, of whom 574 (76.1%) underwent resection. The medical records of these resected patients were retrospectively reviewed.
Results: The incidence of major hepatectomies has increased, and limited resections, including central hepatectomies and bile duct resections, were rarely performed. Combined vascular resection was being used more often. Operative time has become shorter, and intraoperative blood loss has also decreased significantly. Because of refinements in surgical techniques and perioperative management, morbidity decreased significantly but was still high, with a rate of 43.1% in the last 5 years. Mortality rate has also decreased significantly (P < 0.001) from 11.1% (8/72) before 1990 to 1.4% (3/218) in the last 5 years. The ratio of advanced disease defined as pStage IVA and IVB has increased significantly from 49.4% before 2000 to 61.4% after 2001. The disease-specific survival for the 574 study patients (including all deaths) was 44.3% at year 3, 32.5% at year 5, and 19.9% at year 10. The survival was significantly better in the later period of 2001 to 2010 than in the earlier period of 1977 to 2000 (38.1% vs 23.1% at year 5, P < 0.001). For pM0, R0, and pN0 patients (n = 243), the survival in the later period was good with 67.1% at year 5, which was significantly better than that of the earlier period (P < 0.001). For pM0, R0, and pN1 patients (n = 142), however, the survival in the later period was similar to that of the earlier period (22.1% vs 14.6% at year 5, P = 0.647). Multivariate analysis revealed that lymph node metastasis was the strongest prognostic indicator.
Conclusions: Surgical treatment of perihilar cholangiocarcinoma has been evolving steadily, with expanded surgical indication, decreased mortality, and increased survival. Survival for R0 and pN0 patients was satisfactory, whereas survival for pN1 patients was still poor, suggesting that establishment of effective adjuvant chemotherapy is needed.