Radio frequency ablation is a medical procedure that uses heat generated from medium-frequency alternating current to destroy dysfunctional (usually tumors) inside the body. This is a form of non-invasive treatment method that is more efficient and safe as compared to other similarly functioning medical treatment methods.
How is Radio Frequency Ablation performed?
Radio frequency ablation is a non-invasive medical treatment method. This may require:
- inserting single/multiple needle-thin electrodes into the skin above the tumor (most common method)
- Passing the electrodes through the skin with the help of a laparoscope that is placed in the abdominal region
- Using the radio-frequency generating device simultaneously with another surgery for removal of the tumor
The doctor/surgeon will explain the significance of each form of approach/method used in radio-frequency ablation and advise you on the best-suitable method required in your individual case.
This treatment is performed as an outpatient procedure and requires around 1-3 hours normally, depending on the number of tumors and their size as well. The procedure can be performed using local anesthetic to numb the targeted area in case of smaller or easier-to-access tumors. In case the tumors are multiple in numbers or are larger in size then this procedure will be usually done under general anesthesia.
Ultrasound scans are continuously performed using specialized devices that give an updated position of the electrode probe which helps guide it to the right position.
Why is Radio Frequency Ablation used?
Radio-frequency ablation may be used to treat cancer, decrease its size or to relieve the painful symptoms (as palliative treatment). This procedure can be performed as a stand-alone treatment or it might be performed in combination with another treatment procedure.
In case a patient is suffering from another prevalent medical disorder then radio-frequency ablation is an ideal treatment method for them.
Why is Radio Frequency Ablation performed?
Radio-frequency ablation is most frequently used to treat:
- Treat liver cancer originating in the liver but has now spread to other parts of the body. In cases where the tumor in the liver is smaller (around 2 inches) in size and another liver disorder such as liver cirrhosis is already present in the patient this surgery is most suitable.
- Lung cancer that started development in the lung but has now spread to other parts of the body. Lung cancer in its earlier stages can be treated successfully with radio frequency ablation for people who cannot undergo a surgical procedure for its removal. This treatment is ideally considered when the tumor is small (around 1 inch) in size and is located on the outside of the lung.
- Renal (kidney) cancer is also usually treated with radio frequency ablation method if the patient has a single functioning kidney or it is required to keep both kidneys intact and removal of the affected kidney is not an option. This surgery is known to work best for smaller-sized (2 inches and smaller) tumors on the outside of the kidney.
What are the possible complications associated with Radio Frequency Ablation?
The amount of risk after a radio frequency ablation procedure is very low as it is a non-invasive treatment method (sometimes a minimally-invasive surgical method).
These are the rare risks that might arise after a radio frequency ablation procedure:
- Infection – Rarely, infection can be seen at the incision site and can be easily treated using antibiotics.
- Bleeding – People affected with hemophilia or with blood-thinning disorders are more prone to the risk of uncontrolled bleeding. The surgeon will continuously monitor you for signs of excessive bleeding and take every possible precaution to avoid this situation.
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) – Very rare cases of treatment of liver or upper kidney cancer may result in lung collapse. This can cause breathlessness but is automatically treated with time.
- Organ damage – This risk is also very rare, especially if the procedure is performed by an experienced specialist.
Radio frequency ablation is one of the most efficient and convenient method of treatment for a large variety of tumors.