PURPOSE: To evaluate the comparative therapeutic efficacy of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and hepatic resection for the treatment of colorectal liver metastasis (CRLM). METHODS: Between 1996 and 2008, 177 patients underwent RFA, 278 underwent hepatic resection and 27 underwent combination therapy for CRLM. Comparative analysis of clinical outcomes was performed including number of liver metastases, tumor size, and time of CRLM. RESULTS: Based on multivariate analysis, overall survival (OS) correlated with the number of liver metastases and the use of combined chemotherapy (P < 0.001, respectively). Disease-free survival (DFS) also correlated with the number of liver metastases (P < 0.001). In the 226 patients with solitary CRLM < 3 cm, OS and DFS rates did not differ between the RFA group and the resection group (P = 0.962 and P = 0.980). In the 70 patients with solitary CRLM > or = 3 cm, DFS was significantly lower in the RFA group as compared with the resection group (P = 0.015). CONCLUSION: The results indicate that RFA may be a safe alternative treatment for solitary CRLM less than 3 cm, with outcomes equivalent to those achieved with hepatic resection. A randomized controlled study comparing RFA and resection for patients with single small metastasis would help to determine the most efficient treatment modalities for CRLM.