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Radiofrequency Tumor Ablation (RFA) is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat small liver, lung, kidney and bone tumors. During RFA, an interventional radiologist carefully guides an ablation needle into the center of the tumor using imaging techniques such as ultrasound or CT scan. The probe is connected to a radiofrequency generator that delivers alternating electrical current (radiofrequency energy) to the tumor producing heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes cancerous cells to shrink and die, but healthy tissue is spared because the probe cools as it is removed.The heat from radiofrequency energy also closes up small blood vessels, thereby minimizing the risk of bleeding.
The procedure requires only local anesthesia and avoids the scars and complications associated with traditional open surgery. Because RFA involves no cutting, it is also a viable option for individuals previously thought to be too old or sick to withstand surgery. At the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center our team of highly-trained physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and technologists are led by Peter Julien, MD, and Marc L. Friedman, MD, who head our Radiofrequency Ablation program. Thomas J. Learch, MD has extensive experience performing RFA for benign lesions in bone.
Radiofrequency ablation is generally done in a room devoted to CT or ultrasound imaging. After the patient lies down on the examining table, the tumor will be located and he/she receive intravenous sedation (through a tube previously placed in an arm vein) to avoid discomfort during the procedure. The patient may or may not remain awake, depending on how deeply he/she are sedated. The skin area where the needle passes through will be numbed with local anesthetic to further decrease discomfort. Each radiofrequency ablation treatment takes about 12 to 30 minutes and the total procedure will be completed in one to three hours, depending on how many tumor sites have to be treated. After radiofrequency ablation the patient may receive further medication to prevent pain and nausea as the sedation wears off.
Some advantages of radiofrequency tumor ablation include:
- Effective treatment for small cancers
- Minimally invasive with no skin incision
- Minimal risk to patient
- Typically little or no pain
- Minimal hospital stay
- Can be repeated if new cancer appears
The S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center provides a full range of advanced imaging, both radiology and cardiology, as well as interventional radiology and interventional tumor (oncology) treatments to the greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, Encino, Mid-Cities, Sherman Oaks, Silver Lake, Studio City, Toluca Lake, and West Hollywood.