BACKGROUND: Hepatic metastases from neuroendocrine tumors have a protracted natural history and are associated with endocrinopathies. Resection is indicated for symptom control. Previous reports have suggested improvement in survival for patients undergoing debulking procedures. STUDY DESIGN: The records of all consecutive patients undergoing resection of hepatic metastases from neuroendocrine tumors between 1977 and 1998 were reviewed. Tumors were classified according to histology, endocrine activity, and primary location. Patients lost to followup before 1 year were excluded. Followups were based on outpatient evaluations and were updated by correspondence. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to generate survival and recurrence curves, and the log-rank test was used for comparison. RESULTS: A total of 170 patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria, of whom 73 were men. Mean age (±SD) was 57 (±11.5) years. Carcinoid (n = 120) and nonfunctioning islet cell tumors (n = 18) predominated; the ileum (n = 85) and the pancreas (n = 52) were the most common primary sites. Major hepatectomy (one or more lobes) was performed in 91 patients (54%). The postoperative complication rate was 14%, and two patients died (1.2%). Operation controlled symptoms in 104 of 108 patients, but the recurrence rate at 5 years was 59%. Operation decreased 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid levels considerably, and no patient experienced carcinoid heart disease postoperatively. Recurrence rate was 84% at 5 years. Overall survival was 61% and 35% at 5 and 10 years, respectively, with no difference between carcinoid and islet cell tumors. CONCLUSIONS: Hepatic resection for metastatic neuroendocrine tumors is safe and achieves symptom control in most patients. Debulking extends survival, although recurrence is expected. Hepatic resection is justified by its effects on survival and quality of life.
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