Resection Volume Does Not Impact Gallbladder Cancer Survival


Larger liver resections do not always improve survival in patients with gallbladder cancer, recent research showed.

Healthy human liver and gallbladder anatomy between two palms. Protecting against liver disease and organ donation concept. | Image credit: © Orawan - ©

The gallbladder (green) is near the liver (red), so oftentimes, gallbladder cancer surgery requires resection of the liver.

Resection of large parts of the liver may not improve outcomes for patients with gallbladder cancer and — even worse — may lead to more complications and a poorer quality of life, according to recent research conducted at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine in Massachusetts.

Since the gallbladder is found directly below the liver, resection of all or part of the liver remains an important strategy for gallbladder cancer treatment. However, as long as the disease is fully removed, the volume of liver tissue taken out is not associated with how long patients live after the procedure.

“When the surgery to remove gallbladder cancer is successful and all the cancer is removed, the amount of liver that is removed doesn't seem to make a big difference in how long patients live,” explained corresponding author Dr. Eduardo Vega, assistant professor of surgery at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, in a press release.

According to the American Cancer Society, “Nearly all doctors agree that surgery offers the only realistic chance for curing people with gallbladder cancer.” This is if the disease is caught early and has not already spread to surrounding tissues, lymph nodes or other parts of the body — something that is, unfortunately, quite rare.

Patients with gallbladder cancer may also undergo palliative surgery, which occurs when the tumor is too large to be completely removed, but part of the cancer is taken out in an effort to relieve symptoms and potentially help patients live longer.

READ MORE: Study Will Investigate If Giving Chemo Before and After Surgery Can Boost Gallbladder Cancer Outcomes

The researchers on this particular study analyzed medical records of 101 patients who underwent surgery to remove gallbladder cancer in a hospital in Chile, the country with one of the highest rates of gallbladder cancer. The findings, which were published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, showed no difference in survival based on the volume of liver tissue that was removed.

Those with larger volume of their liver removed were more likely to face complications from the surgery, leading the researchers to calculate a range — between 77.5 cm3 and 105 cm3 — that was associated with good cancer control (meaning that there is a significantly decreased risk of the disease coming back) and a reduction in the risk of complications.

The American Cancer Society explained that overall health before the surgery can play a role in the potential side effects an individual experiences. Post-surgical side effects — which are less likely with laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a less invasive type of surgery — can include: bleeding, blood clots, infections, complications from anesthesia and pneumonia.

“By considering these findings, healthcare professionals can potentially improve patient outcomes and reduce post-surgery complications for individuals undergoing gallbladder cancer treatment,” Vega said.

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