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Treatment / Percutaneous Thermal Ablation of Tumor

Percutaneous Thermal Ablation of Tumor

(Including: RFA / Cryoablation / Microwave Ablation)

Thermal ablation uses high energy radio waves to heat the tumor and destroy the cancer cells. This technique is commonly used in patients with a few small tumors and when surgery is not a good option. It is most commonly used to treat tumors in the liver, kidneys, and lungs and is being studied for use in other areas of the body.

Thermal ablation can be added to other treatments like surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hepatic arterial infusion therapy, alcohol ablation, or chemoembolization.

Am I a Candidate for Thermal Ablation?

Thermal ablation is used to treat many types of cancer. The two most common types are:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma, which is a primary liver cancer (meaning it begins in the liver)
  • Colon cancer that metastasizes or spreads from the colon to the liver

Ablation is often an effective treatment option if you meet the following criteria:

  • Are not a good candidate for surgery because your tumor is difficult to reach
  • Have a number of small liver tumors that are too spread out to be removed surgically
  • Have liver tumors that have not responded to chemotherapy or have recurred after being removed surgically
  • After undergoing surgical removal of a tumor, would not have enough liver tissue left for the organ to function
  • Have medical conditions that would make surgery especially risky

What to Expect from the Procedure

Thermal ablation is typically done on an outpatient basis with each ablation taking about 10-30 minutes. The entire procedure is usually completed within one to three hours. Using imaging-guidance, your vascular and interventional radiologist will insert the needle electrode through the skin and advance it to the site of the tumor. Depending on the size of the tumor, it may be necessary to do multiple ablations by repositioning the needle electrode or by placing multiple needles into different parts of the tumor to ensure comprehensive treatment.

Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the treated area will be performed within a few hours to a month following thermal ablation. A radiologist will interpret these CT or MRI scans to detect any complications and ensure all the tumor tissue has been treated.

You will likely have follow up CT or MRI scans every three to four months to check for new tumors.


After your ablation treatment you will rest in a recovery area for a while before you are sent home. Pain immediately following ablation can be controlled by pain medication, for most patients pain resolves within a few days.

Benefits of Thermal Ablation

Thermal ablation offers patients a minimally invasive treatment option with low complication rates and less discomfort than surgery. The procedure and recovery times are short so that chemotherapy may be resumed almost immediately for patients who require it.

For patients with liver tumors, ablation may be used repeatedly should tumors recur. In most studies, more than half of the liver tumors treated by ablation have not recurred. The success rate for completely eliminating small liver tumors is greater than 85%.

Risks of Thermal Ablation

While thermal ablation is a relatively safe procedure, there are some risks to be aware of:

  • Damage to a nearby organ. If this happens, the patient may require surgery.
  • Minor risk of infection at the access site.
  • Bleeding which could require transfusion or catheter embolization or surgery.
  • Depending on the location of the lesion, there may be pain in the abdomen or right shoulder.

Whether or not you are a candidate for thermal ablation will depend on your diagnosis and consultation with your interventional radiologist. Call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule an appointment for consultation. You can also read our brochure on Interventional Oncology.

* This information about Percutaneous Thermal Ablation of Tumor was reviewed by Dr. Jason R. Bauer. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us using the form below.

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We are announcing that Interventional and Vascular Consultants will be closing as of March 10, 2023.

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Please know that we have greatly valued our relationship with you and wish you the best.


Jason Bauer, MD RVT
Michael Pfister, MD RVT

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