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VNA of Care New England

Radiofrequency Ablation

(RFA)

Definition

Radiofrequency ablation uses heat to destroy abnormal tissue.

Reasons for Procedure

Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat:
  • Cancerous tumors in the liver, bone, kidney, breast, lung, or adrenal gland; particularly those that have not responded, or are unlikely to respond to surgery and/or chemotherapy alone (often used to treat tumors that have spread)
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (irregular and/or rapid heart rhythms due to abnormal electrical conduction pathways)
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)—condition in which enlarged areas of the prostate may be compressing the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body)
  • Overgrown areas of the soft palate that may be responsible for severe snoring and/or sleep apnea (periods of time when breathing stops during sleep)
  • Pain from soft tissue tumors or disease that has spread
  • Severe nerve pain
  • Varicose veins
Radiofrequency Ablation Results
cardiac ablation heart
Ablation procedure blocked impulses that had been causing atrial fibrillation.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have ablation, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
  • Discomfort
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Infection
  • Lung collapse upon insertion of the probe (when the procedure involves the lung, liver, or upper kidney)
  • Blood clots or damage to heart muscle or conduction pathways after procedures on the heart
  • Liver abscess (small, localized collection of pus within a cavity left by the destroyed tissue)
  • Damage to tissue surrounding the target area
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
  • Bleeding problems
  • Active infection

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Your doctor may order:
    • Blood tests
    • Electrocardiogram (EKG)—a test that records the electrical currents passing through the heart muscle
    • Imaging tests like x-rays, ultrasound, or MRI
  • Ask your doctor if you need to avoid eating or drinking before the procedure.

Anesthesia

You will most likely be given a sedative to help you relax. Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area. If this is done as part of another surgery, you may have general or spinal anesthesia.

Description of the Procedure

An IV will be placed to give you fluids and medicine to help you relax. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure will be monitored. The area where the probe will be inserted is numbed.
The probe will be inserted into or directly up against the abnormal tissue. CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI scan images may be used to help guide the probe. In some cases, once the probe is inserted, a number of electrodes will be placed into the area. This will let the doctor treat a larger area of tissue.
A small amount of heat will be introduced through the probe. The heat will destroy the abnormal tissue. The probe may be repositioned to destroy other areas of tissue.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be monitored for 2-3 hours after the procedure.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10-60 minutes

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. You will be given medicine to help prevent most pain or discomfort.

Average Hospital Stay

It may be possible to leave the hospital on the same day of the procedure. You may need to stay overnight for your doctor to monitor you. Speak to your doctor to see if this is an option in your case.

Post-procedure Care

Do not drive within the first 24 hours after the procedure. You may be asked to avoid strenuous activities. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Cough, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES

American College of Radiology http://www.acr.org

The Radiological Society of North America http://www.rsna.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca

Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca

References

Gazelle GS, Goldberg SN, et al. Tumor ablation with radio-frequency energy. Radiology. 2000;217(3):633.

Interventional radiology. RadiologyInfo website. Available at http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/sitemap/category.cfm?category=ir&bhcp=1. Accessed August 28, 2006.

Radiofrequency ablation. American Heart Association website. Available at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4682. Accessed August 28, 2006.

Radiofrequency ablation. National Institutes of Health website. Available at http://www.cc.nih.gov/drd/rfa/background.html. Accessed August 28, 2006.

Revision Information

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