Liver resection is the surgical removal of part of the liver. This operation is for some types of liver cancer and for certain cases of metastatic colorectal cancer. Up to half of your liver can be removed as long as the rest is healthy.
During a liver resection, the part of your liver that contains cancer is removed, along with some healthy liver tissue on either side. If the right side of your liver is removed, your gallbladder, which is attached to the liver, is also taken out.
What To Expect
Liver resection requires general anesthesia. The operation can take 2 to 5 hours. A blood transfusion is not usually needed for this operation. You may stay in the hospital for 5 to 7 days or as long as 2 weeks after surgery.
Follow-up care is needed because of the possibility that colorectal cancer will return, even if the surgery was successful. Treatment following liver resection may include chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Why It Is Done
Liver resection is used to treat colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver. Removing the cancer from the liver helps to keep it from spreading farther. Sometimes all the cancer in the liver can be removed with this surgery. But even when this surgery cannot remove all the cancer from the liver, it usually helps people live longer.
How Well It Works
Liver resection increases a person's chances of living longer. About 25% to 40% of people (25 to 40 out of 100 people) who have this surgery are still alive after 5 years (5-year survival rate).footnote 1
Possible complications after a liver resection include:
Scar tissue from the surgery.
What To Think About
A liver resection may not be a good choice if you have areas of metastatic colorectal cancer in both lobes of your liver or if you have metastatic disease in other parts of your body.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be needed after a liver resection. Sometimes chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink a tumor in the liver. If it becomes small enough, it can be removed with surgery.
National Cancer Institute (2012). Colon Cancer Treatment (PDQ)—Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/colon/healthprofessional/allpages.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Kenneth Bark, MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery