Background: The superiority of anatomic resection (AR) over non-anatomic resection (NAR) for very early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has remained a topic of debate. Thus, this study aimed to compare the prognosis after AR and NAR for single HCC less than 2 cm in diameter. Methods: Consecutive patients with single HCC of diameter less than 2 cm who underwent curative hepatectomy between 1997 and 2017 were included in this retrospective study. Results: In total, 159 patients were included in this study. Of these, 52 patients underwent AR (AR group) and 107 patients underwent NAR (NAR group). No significant differences were noted in recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) between the AR and NAR groups (P = 0.236 and P = 0.363, respectively). Multivariate analysis revealed that low preoperative platelet count and presence of satellite nodules were independent prognostic factors of RFS and OS. Wide surgical resection margin did not affect RFS (P = 0.692) in the AR group; however, in the NAR group, RFS was found to be higher with surgical resection margin widths ≥1 cm than with surgical resection margin widths <1 cm (P = 0.038). Conclusions: Prognosis was comparable between the NAR and AR groups for very early-stage HCC with well-preserved liver function. For better oncologic outcomes, surgeons should endeavor in keeping the surgical resection margin widths during NAR ≥1 cm.
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