Clinical Practice Guidelines For the Management of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Systematic Review

Publication Name

Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths globally, including Australia. The absence of a consensus clinical practice guideline (CPG) specific to HCC management poses challenges in reducing morbidity, mortality, and improving patient recovery. This systematic review aims to evaluate the existing evidence and assess the potential of published guidelines, including those with an international scope, to provide guidance for healthcare professionals in Australia. Methods: Electronic search of MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, and PubMed was conducted. Peer-reviewed English language articles from 2005 to June 2022 were included if they described management of HCC as part of an evidence-based overall management plan or CPG. The quality of the included CPGs was assessed by the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation II (AGREE II) tool. Results: Twenty-one articles from 16 regions throughout the world were included in this review. All included guidelines (n = 21, 100%) recommended evaluating cirrhosis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C as potential risk factors of HCC. Obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were recommended by 19 CPGs (91%) as risk factor for HCC. Fourteen guidelines (67%) endorsed using the BCLC staging system. Eighteen guidelines (86%) recommended a multidisciplinary approach for the management of HCC. Eighteen guidelines (86%) advised that surveillance using ultrasound should be implemented in all cirrhotic patients every 6 months regardless of the cause of cirrhosis. AGREE II mean overall assessment score was 90% indicating that all guidelines included were highly recommended in majority of domains. Conclusions: The included CPGs provided a comprehensive approach, emphasizing the evaluation of risk factors, utilization of the BCLC staging system, and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach. Regular surveillance using ultrasound for cirrhotic patients was widely recommended. An understanding of contemporary international CPGs can prioritize aspects of the management of HCC to assist healthcare professionals to develop a national guideline to enable standardized, comprehensive, and evidence-based care for patients with HCC.

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