The majority of liver tumours are inoperable and an alternative treatment to surgical resection is urgently needed. Electrolysis has been investigated in a rat model and the procedure is safe, with accurate and predictable effects. The necrosis produced has also been shown to cause destruction of tumour deposits in the rat liver. A similar evaluation in a large animal model was necessary before clinical trials could commence. Using platinum electrodes connected to a d.c. generator, areas of hepatic necrosis were created in the pig liver. Animals were killed at various time points after treatment to assess the extent of healing. Treatment was uneventful and all animals made a full recovery. No animal died from the treatment or had to be killed prematurely. After 2 days of treatment, healing was minimal but at successive time points there was progressive evidence of healing, such that after 4 months, the original electrolytic lesion was greatly reduced in size and the large area of necrosis seen at the early time points was largely replaced by a fibrous scar with only small islands of necrotic tissue. In a large animal model, electrolysis is a safe method for creating areas of hepatic necrosis. The lesions heal with time and are associated with minimal morbidity. The results support a trial of electrolysis in patients with unresectable liver tumours.

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