Radiofrequency ablation, sometimes referred to as RFA, is a minimally invasive treatment for cancer. It is an image-guided technique that heats and destroys cancer cells.
In radiofrequency ablation, imaging techniques such as ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) are used to help guide a needle electrode into a cancerous tumor. High-frequency electrical currents are then passed through the electrode, creating heat that destroys the abnormal cells.
Image-guided, minimally invasive procedures such as radiofrequency ablation are most often performed by a specially trained interventional radiologist in an interventional radiology suite or occasionally in the operating room. Radiofrequency ablation is often done on an outpatient basis. Radiofrequency ablation is performed using one of three methods:
Using imaging guidance, the radiologist will insert the needle electrode through the skin and advance it to the site of the tumor.
Once the needle electrode is in place, radiofrequency energy is applied. For a large tumor, it may be necessary to do multiple ablations to ensure no tumor tissue is left behind.
Pain immediately following radiofrequency ablation can be controlled by pain medication given through IV or by injection. Afterward, any mild discomfort can be controlled by oral pain medications. The patient should be able to resume usual activities within a few days. Only about two percent of patients will still have pain a week following radiofrequency ablation.
Radiofrequency Ablation can also be used to treat kidney tumors, adrenal tumors and bone tumors.