Transarterial therapies, either alone or in conjunction with adjuvant therapies, have been demonstrated to improve survival rates in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Although generally well tolerated and widely used for more than two decades, transarterial procedures have been reported to be associated with several infectious complications when performed in patients with HCC. However, the question of whether antibiotic prophylaxis is necessary for patients undergoing transarterial procedures for HCC remains controversial. Accordingly, this meta-analysis examined clinical trial evidence regarding the effects of prophylactic antibiotic therapy versus no prophylactic treatment with respect to infectious complications in patients undergoing transarterial therapy for HCC.BACKGROUND: The use of prophylactic antibiotics against postprocedure infection in patients undergoing transarterial therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma is controversial.AIM: To compare the effects of prophylactic antibiotic treatment and no prophylactic antibiotic treatment on infectious complications following transarterial procedures.METHODS: Clinical trials fulfilling predefined selection criteria were identified by searching several bibliographic databases; a meta-analysis was performed where appropriate.RESULTS: Four trials of inadequate quality consisting of 210 patients were included in the analysis. Only one case of possible postprocedure infection in each group was reported. The rate of patients developing fever (RR 0.91 [95% CI 0.61 to 1.35]), changes in peripheral white blood cell count or serum C-reactive protein levels, and the mean length of hospital stay (mean difference 0.20 [95% CI 0.75 to 1.14]) showed no significant intergroup differences between antibiotic and no antibiotic treatment. Furthermore, the results of the present study indicated that the incidence of bacteremia, septicemia, sepsis or hepatic abscess after transarterial therapy was rare.CONCLUSION: Antibiotic prophylaxis in patients undergoing transarterial therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma may not be routinely necessary. However, a more judicious use of antibiotics is recommended for patients who are at an increased risk of infection. Nevertheless, prospective trials on a larger scale are clearly needed.