Partial nephrectomy versus ablative techniques for small renal masses: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

To compare partial nephrectomy (PN), radiofrequency ablation (RFA), cryoablation (CRA) and microwave ablation (MWA) regarding oncologic, perioperative and functional outcomes.

The MEDLINE, EMBASE and COCHRANE libraries were searched for studies comparing PN, RFA, CRA or MWA and reporting on any-cause or cancer-specific mortality, local recurrence, complications or renal function. Network meta-analyses were performed.

Forty-seven studies with 24,077 patients were included. Patients receiving RFA, CRA or MWA were older and had more comorbidities compared with PN. All-cause mortality was higher for CRA and RFA compared with PN (incidence rate ratio IRR = 2.58, IRR = 2.58, p < 0.001, respectively). No significant differences in cancer-specific mortality were evident. Local recurrence was higher for CRA, RFA and MWA compared with PN (IRR = 4.13, IRR = 1.79, IRR = 2.52, p < 0.05 respectively). A decline in renal function was less pronounced after RFA versus PN, CRA and MWA (mean difference in GFR MD = 6.49; MD = 5.82; MD = 10.89, p < 0.05 respectively).

Higher overall survival and local control of PN compared with ablative therapies did not translate into significantly better cancer-specific mortality. Most studies carried a high risk of bias by selecting younger and healthier patients for PN, which may drive superior survival and local control. Physicians should be aware of the lack of high-quality evidence and the potential benefits of ablative techniques for certain patients, including a superior complication profile and renal function preservation.

• Patients selected for ablation of small renal masses are older and have more comorbidities compared with those undergoing partial nephrectomy. • Partial nephrectomy yields lower all-cause mortality, which is probably biased by patient selection and does not translate into prolonged cancer-free survival. • The decline of renal function is smallest after radiofrequency ablation for small renal masses.

European radiology. 2018 Sep 25 [Epub ahead of print]

Johannes Uhlig, Arne Strauss, Gerta Rücker, Ali Seif Amir Hosseini, Joachim Lotz, Lutz Trojan, Hyun S Kim, Annemarie Uhlig

Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Medical Center Goettingen, Goettingen, Germany., Department of Urology, University Medical Center Goettingen, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, 37075, Goettingen, Germany., Faculty of Medicine and Institute of Medical Biometry and Statistics, Medical Center - University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany., Division of Interventional Radiology, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA., Department of Urology, University Medical Center Goettingen, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, 37075, Goettingen, Germany. .