Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) can be used to treat various tumor types. An RFA uses heat to burn the cancer cells. A needle will be inserted through the skin into the tumor, assisted by image guided techniques like an ultrasound or a CT scan and connected to a generator. The generator makes the cells vibrate. The heat caused by this vibration burns the cancer cells.

Illustration ablation

RFA can be used to treat tumors up to a certain size

For radiofrequency ablation (RFA) a tumor cannot have a bigger diameter than 3.5 centimeters. RFA is primarily used for patients who cannot have surgery due to cardiovascular problems, lung issues, or other conditions. An interventional radiologist performs the procedure, and you will be given a local anesthetic.

Microwave Ablation

For tumors in the lung, liver, or kidneys that are 3.5 centimeters or bigger, we offer a similar treatment: Microwave Ablation (MWA).

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Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) - how does it work?

You will meet your interventional radiologist at our Image Guided Oncological Interventions Department (Polikliniek Beeldgestuurde Oncologische Interventies; PBOI). You can discuss the treatment, and possible complications and follow-up care with him or her.

During RFA treatment, the needles will be inserted using image guided techniques that help us find the correct position. The needle will be connected to a generator which will use an alternating current to generate heat. This heat can kill cancer cells. 

General or local anesthesia

You will receive an epidural for local anesthesia. The benefit of a local anesthetic is that we can better adjust the painkillers after the procedure. If you would prefer, we can give you a general anesthetic again so you will be asleep during the procedure.

Side effects and complications

The most common side effect (32% of people having this procedure) is called the post-ablation tubal sterilization syndrome. This will cause general discomfort, pain, high temperature, nausea, vomiting, and muscle paints: similar symptoms to those of the flu. These symptoms will vanish over the course of 1 or 2 weeks.

During RFA treatment

Some of the issues that may occur during the treatment are hemorrhaging, coughing up blood when treating the lungs, or blood in the urine when treating the kidneys. These symptoms usually won’t require treatment.  People receiving a lung RFA risk lung collapse, which will require drainage.

After your treatment

After your RFA treatment, you will spend the night in the hospital. After one month we will use a CT scan to evaluate the results. Your interventional radiologist will discuss the results with you.

3 months after the procedure, you will have a check-up with your interventional radiologists. Afterwards your practicing physician can handle your care. If you received treatment for a tumor in the kidneys, you will have check-ups with your interventional radiologists for one year.