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ICD-10 code:
ICD-9 code: 50.22 50.4
MeSH D006498
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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Hepatectomy consists on the surgical resection of the liver. While the term is often employed for the removal of the liver from a liver transplant recipient, this article will focus on partial resections of hepatic tissue.


The first successful anatomic hepatectomy was reported by Jean-Louis Lortat-Jacob in 1952, the patient being a 58-year-old woman diagnosed with colorectal cancer metastatic to the liver.


Most hepatectomies are performed for the treatment of hepatic neoplasms, both benign or malignant.

Benign neoplasms include hepatocellular adenoma, hepatic hemangioma and focal nodular hyperplasia.

The most common malignant neoplasms (cancers) of the liver are metastases; those arising from colorectal cancer are among the most common, and the most amenable to surgical resection. The most common primary malignant tumour of the liver is the hepatocellular carcinoma.

Hepatectomy may also be the procedure of choice to treat intrahepatic gallstones or parasitic cysts of the liver.


Access is accomplished by laparotomy, typically by a bilateral subcostal ("chevron") incision, possibly with midline extension (Calne or "Mercedes-Benz" incision).

Hepatectomies may be anatomic, i.e. the lines of resection match the limits of one or more functional segments of the liver as defined by the Couinaud classification (cf. liver#Functional anatomy); or they may be non-anatomic, irregular or "wedge" hepatectomies.

Anatomic resections are generally preferred because of the smaller risk of bleeding and biliary fistula; however, non-anatomic resections can be performed safely as well in selected cases. For details on the variety of anatomic hepatectomies and the specific nomenclature, cf. the International Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Association (IHPBA) Terminology for Liver Resections


Bleeding is the most feared technical complication and may be grounds for urgent reoperation. Biliary fistula is also a possible complication, albeit one more amenable to nonsurgical management. Pulmonary complications such as atelectasis and pleural effusion are commonplace, and dangerous in patients with underlying lung disease. Infection is relatively rare.

Liver failure poses a significant hazard to patients with underlying hepatic disease; this is a major deterrent in the surgical resection of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis. It is also a problem, to a lesser degree, in patients with previous hepatectomies (e.g. repeat resections for reincident colorectal cancer metastases).


Liver surgery is safe when performed by experienced surgeons with appropriate technological and institutional support. As with most major surgical procedures, there is a marked tendency towards optimal results at the hands of surgeons with high caseloads in selected centres (typically cancer centres and transplantation centres).

For optimal results, combination treatment with systemic or regionally infused chemo or biological therapy should be considered. Prior to surgery, cytotoxic agents such as oxaliplatin given systemically for colorectal metastasis, or chemoembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma can significantly decrease the size of the tumor bulk, allowing then for resections which would remove a segment or wedge portion of the liver only. These procedures can also be aided by application of liver clamp (Lin or Chu liver clamp; Pilling no.604113-61995) in order to minimize blood loss.