Radiofrequency Ablation

Q. I have a friend who has a cancerous tumor. Someone mentioned that radiofrequency ablation may be something she should consider. What is radiofrequency ablation?

A. Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a time-proven and FDA-approved technique for destroying tumors, most commonly of the lung, liver and kidney. RFA has been used for over 10 years to treat cancer in patients desiring a less-invasive approach as well as patients unable to undergo an open, more invasive surgical procedure. Practiced by interventional radiologists, particularly those in the field of interventional oncology, RFA is usually done on an outpatient basis using IV conscious sedation like many other outpatient interventional procedures. During the procedure, an electrode (or small needle) is inserted into the body through a tiny incision at the location of the tumor. Radiofrequency waves are then generated in the tines of the electrode at the tumor site, resulting in heat formation and death of the local cancer cells. The electrode is removed during heating to cauterize the tract and prevent tumor cells from recurring along its path. Once the lesion/cancer is destroyed, the body forms a scar around the debris of the dead tumor, and it is slowly absorbed over time. Since the procedure can be performed through the skin, it is less risky and has fewer complications than traditional open surgical techniques; in fact, patients are able to resume normal activity within a few days or the next day. Additionally, it can be repeated multiple times to achieve a successful result, or combined with other treatment modalities like chemotherapy and radiation. Perhaps most importantly, it can provide hope for cancer patients when no other treatment options can be tolerated.

James M. Busch, M.D., Radiologist

Diagnostic Radiology Consultants

1949 Gunbarrel Rd., Suite 170

Chattanooga, TN 37421

(423) 893-7226