Summary Background and aims To clarify the role of miR-23a in the onset and development of hepatocarcinoma on the cellular, genetic and molecular levels. Patients and methods Seventy-eight patients were included after hepatectomy. Relationships between the clinical pathological factors of tumor and paracancerous tissues were analyzed. Risk factors of overall and recurrence-free survival rates were subject to multi-variable analysis. Tissues were sequenced by digital miRNA expression profiling, and new miRNA was subject to target gene prediction. Results miR-23a expression was correlated with the stage of the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours most significantly, followed by tumor size (P=0.041 and 0.047). High miR-23a, vascular invasion, tumor size≥7cm, tumor capsule and late pathological stage were the risk factors of overall survival rate, and those of recurrence-free survival rate also included alpha-fetoprotein level≥200μg/L and multiple tumors. Compared with normal hepatic cell line L-02, the miR-23a expression levels in tumor cell lines SMMC-7721 and HepG2 were up-regulated and down-regulated respectively. Transfecting miR-23a inhibitor suppressed cell growth. Apoptotic rates of the control and those transfected with inhibitor-NC and miR-23a inhibitor for 48h were similar. Conclusion High miR-23a expression is the independent prognostic factor of overall and recurrence-free survival rates, and miR-23a may be involved in the onset of hepatocarcinoma as an oncogene.