Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
For years, Scott & White physicians have been using Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) to treat various tumors and conditions, and throughout that time, the uses of this advanced procedure have multiplied. Today, the procedure is often performed outside of the operating room by interventional radiologists.
RFA is a technique, often done on an outpatient basis, in which a probe is inserted and guided through the body to the site of a tumor or tissue. When the probe is in place, energy is released through the probe, which causes the atoms in the cells to vibrate and create friction, which in turn causes them to heat up. The heat (above 50º C) is dispersed from the probe to the site of treatment and causes the tumor or tissue to die. The heat created causes the tissues near the probe to reach near boiling, ensuring the death of the cell.
“This is one of the best ways we have to kill a tumor directly,” said Paul Neese, M.D., Scott & White interventional radiologist. “Once the probe is placed in the tumor, we monitor the temperature until it is near boiling. Cells blasted with temperatures that high do not survive, and we can be fairly certain we have killed the tumor. This is an incredibly successful technique when we are targeting specific tumors.”
When it was first developed, RFA was most commonly performed by surgeons, but is now very often performed on an outpatient basis by radiologists. “This is a wonderful option for many people because it is an alternative to surgery or chemotherapy,” Dr. Neese said. “We can help offer a choice by being able to perform the same procedure in our own department. We use state-of-the-art ultrasound and CT-scan equipment to guide the probe to its location and blast the tumor — all while the patient is under a local anesthetic.”
While Dr. Neese admits RFA is a last resort for many patients with liver cancer, it can often be the best option for those with painful bone cancers or renal cell cancer. And for many patients, this effective, high-tech procedure can mean they are back on their feet in days, not weeks.