BACKGROUND: For patients who present with synchronous colorectal carcinoma and colorectal liver metastasis (CRLM), a reversed treatment sequence in which the CRLM are resected before the primary carcinoma has been proposed (liver-first approach). The aim of the present study was to assess the feasibility and outcome of this approach for synchronous CRLM. METHODS: Between 2005 and 2010, 22 patients were planned to undergo the liver-first approach. Feasibility and outcomes were prospectively evaluated. RESULTS: Of the 22 patients planned to undergo the liver-first strategy, the approach was completed in 18 patients (81.8%). The main reason for treatment failure was disease progression. Patients who completed treatment and patients who deviated from the protocol had a similar location of the primary tumour, as well as comparable size, number and distribution of CRLM (all P > 0.05). Post-operative morbidity and mortality were 27.3% and 0% following liver resection and 44.4% and 5.6% after colorectal surgery, respectively. On an intention-to-treat-basis, overall 3-year survival was 41.1%. However, 37.5% of patients who completed the treatment had developed recurrent disease at the time of the last follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: The liver-first approach is feasible in approximately four-fifths of patients and can be performed with peri-operative mortality and morbidity similar to the traditional treatment paradigm. Patients treated with this novel strategy derive a considerable overall-survival-benefit, although disease-recurrence-rates remain relatively high, necessitating a multidisciplinary approach.