Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Therapy of Liver
Tse-Ling Fong, MD
Dr. Fong is the Medical Director of the USC Liver Transplant Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Southern California and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and the subspecialty of Gastroenterology.
When do surgeons do radiofrequency ablation (RFA)?
In the U.S., radiofrequency ablation (RFA) therapy has become the ablation (tissue destruction) therapy of choice among surgeons for treating liver cancer (HCC). The surgeon can perform this procedure laparoscopically (through small holes in the abdomen) or during open exploration of the abdomen. In some instances, the procedure can be done without opening the abdomen by just using ultrasound for visual guidance.
How is RFA done and how does it work?
In RFA, heat is generated locally by a high frequency, alternating current that flows from the electrodes. A probe is inserted into the center of the tumor and the non-insulated electrodes, which are shaped like prongs, are projected into the tumor. The local heat that is generated melts the tissue (coagulative necrosis) that is adjacent to the probe. The probe is left in place for about 10 to 15 minutes. The whole procedure is monitored visually by ultrasound scanning.
What size tumor is treated by RFA?
The ideal size of an HCC tumor for RFA is less than 3 cm. Larger tumors may require more than one session.
What is the benefit of RFA therapy?
This treatment should be viewed as palliative (providing some relief), but not curative.
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Previous contributing medical editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD
Last Editorial Review: 4/13/2007
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