Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses an electrical current to treat tumors that cannot be surgically removed in the liver, kidney, lung, and bone. The procedure is very specific. It is used to treat tumors:
- Less than two inches in diameter
- Less than four in quantity
- Located in specific areas of the body
The procedure can also be used to treat tumors: before a surgery, that recur after a surgery, if the chemotherapy didn’t succeed, or to control cancer before an organ transplant.
RFA targets the treatment area and limits destruction of healthy tissue. It has few side effects, most patients recover quickly, and the procedure can be repeated if necessary. For people with inoperable cancer, radiofrequency ablation is not a cure, but can improve their quality life and eliminate tumors.
In order to determine if you are qualified for radiofrequency ablation, you will need to undergo additional tests. Be sure to tell your doctor if you:
- Are taking blood thinners or supplements that thin blood
- Have clotting or a coagulation disorder
- Are allergic to iodine
- Are pregnant or nursing
Patients are often sedated and given local anesthetic. Grounding pads are placed on your abdomen or legs. Next the doctor uses ultrasound or a CT scanner to locate the tumor.
During the radiofrequency ablation procedure, a probe is inserted into the tumor. When the probe is inserted within the tumor, electrodes are extended from the tip of the probe, and it forms an umbrella shape around the tumor. Next, a radio frequency wave runs through the probe and heats the tumor destroying the diseased tissue. Simultaneously, the blood vessels supporting the tumor are cauterized, minimizing blood loss. The tumor shrinks and the body replaces the dead cells with scar tissue
The entire procedure takes between one to three hours, depending on the quantity of tumors and their dimensions.
Patients spend time in recovery and an overnight stay in the hospital. Most patients can return to their regular routine the day after treatment.
Follow-up CT may be ordered to verify that the treatment was successful.