Background The prognosis of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) has been poor, because of the high recurrence rate even after curative surgery. This study aimed to evaluate the prognostic impact of surgical resection of recurrent ICC. Patients and methods A total of 345 cases of ICC who underwent hepatectomy with curative intent in 17 institutions were retrospectively analyzed, focusing on recurrence patterns and treatment modalities for recurrent ICC. Results Median survival time and overall 5-year recurrence-free survival rate were 17.8 months and 28.5%, respectively. Recurrences (n = 223) were classified as early (recurrence at ≤1 year, n = 131) or late (recurrence at >1 year, n = 92). Median survival time was poorer for early recurrence (16.3 months) than for late recurrence (47.7 months, p<0.0001). Treatment modalities for recurrence comprised surgical resection (n = 28), non-surgical treatment (n = 134), and best supportive care (BSC) (n = 61). Median and overall 1-/5-year survival rates after recurrence were 39.5 months and 84.6%/36.3% for surgical resection, 14.3 months and 62.5%/2.9% for non-surgical treatment, and 3 months and 4.8%/0% for BSC, respectively (p<0.0001). Multivariate analysis identified early recurrence, simultaneous intra- and extrahepatic recurrence, and surgical resection of recurrence as significant prognostic factors. In subgroup analyses, surgical resection may have positive prognostic impacts on intra- and extrahepatic recurrences, and even on early recurrence. However, simultaneous intra- and extrahepatic recurrence may not see any survival benefit from surgical management. Conclusion Surgical resection of recurrent ICC could improve survival after recurrence, especially for patients with intra- or extrahepatic recurrence as resectable oligo-metastases.
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