Patient Information: What to Expect

September 9, 2007

RFA is a minimally invasive treatment, so it is less taxing on the body than surgery. In many cases, it can be performed on an outpatient basis. You may be able to leave the hospital the same day and should be able to resume normal activities the day after treatment.

Preparing for RFA
• You and your doctor will discuss whether you should undergo general or local anesthetic.
• Don’t eat solid food for eight hours before the procedure.
• You may continue to drink clear, non-alcoholic fluids up until two hours before the procedure.
• Tell your doctor if you are taking aspirin or any blood thinners.
• Blood will be drawn for standard tests.
 

A cluster of three needle electrodes can be used to ablate a larger volume of tissue than a single needle electrode. (Provided by Valleylab)

During the Procedure
• Your vital signs will be monitored.
• An IV line will be inserted to deliver fluid, medication, and anesthetic.
• If you are undergoing a local anesthetic, a numbing agent will be injected into the site of the procedure.
• The doctor will use ultrasound, CT, or MRI to locate the tumor.
• Using the image generated, the doctor will guide the needle electrode into the tumor. This may cause some discomfort.
• You’ll be asked to stay as still as possible as the generator produces heat at the tip of the needle electrode.
• Depending on the size of the tumor, the needle electrode may be repositioned and the process repeated.
• The treatment process will take between 10 and 60 minutes.

After the Procedure
• The needle will be withdrawn from the site.
• A small bandage will cover the insertion site.
• You’ll typically be placed on bed rest for at least two hours.
• The dead tumor will not be removed-it will naturally shrink and be replaced by scar tissue over time.

Side Effects
• There may be some pain, bleeding, or bruising at the site of the needle electrode insertion.
• You may experience a headache or some nausea.
• There is a slight risk of infection at the needle electrode insertion site. Contact your doctor if you experience a fever of more than 101.5 degrees.

Monitoring
After the tumor has had time to shrink, your doctor will use ultrasound, CT, MRI, or PET imaging to check the size of the tumor and see if there is any recurrence of cancerous growth at the margins of the site. Expect to undergo a series of follow-up sessions.

Insurance
Many insurance providers cover RFA for treatment of liver and bone tumors. They may also cover RFA treatment for other types of tumors.