RFA is a very safe procedure. It is minimally invasive-unlike surgery, your doctor will not make any major incisions. It does not involve the use of harsh chemical agents, and it requires only the radiation necessary to operate the imaging equipment.
As with any medical procedure, however, there are some risks and side effects. Side effects occur in 1% to 4% of cases.
Common Side Effects
The most common side effects are pain, bruising, bleeding, low-grade fever, and infection at the site where the needle electrode is inserted.
• Pain: You may experience some pain when the needle electrode is inserted, moved, and removed. Your doctor should give you options for controlling or treating this pain.
• Bruising: You may experience bruising at the site where the needle electrode was inserted. This is similar to the sort of bruising you may experience when giving blood.
• Bleeding: The risk of bleeding is actually less prevalent with RFA than with other treatments, as the heat from the needle electrode cauterizes the tissue around the site.
• Fever: You may experience a low-grade fever after a long procedure.
• Infection: As with any treatment that breaks the skin, you may be susceptible to infection at the site where the needle electrode was inserted. Notify your doctor if you experience a fever of more than 101.5 degrees F, redness or discharge at the insertion site, or bleeding or swelling at the insertion site.
Specific Safety Concerns• Lung collapse: Patients undergoing RFA of the liver or upper kidney face a slight risk of lung collapse when the needle electrode is inserted. Your doctor will monitor your vital signs and lung function during the procedure.
• Tumor lysis-like syndrome: Like other cancer treatments, RFA may cause a buildup of chemicals from dead cells in your bloodstream. In some cases, this chemical imbalance can lead to heart arrhythmia, kidney failure, or death.
The best way to avoid a tumor lysis-like syndrome is to make sure you get plenty of water and other hydration. Talk to your doctor about how much water you should drink following the procedure.