Radiofrequency ablation uses heat to destroy abnormal tissue.
Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat:
Cancerous tumors in the liver, bone, kidney, breast, lung, or adrenal gland; particularly those that have not responded, or are unlikely to respond to surgery and/or
alone (often used to treat tumors that have spread)
- Cardiac arrhythmias
(irregular and/or rapid heart rhythms due to abnormal electrical conduction pathways)
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)—condition in which enlarged areas of the prostate may be compressing the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body)
Overgrown areas of the soft palate that may be responsible for severe snoring and/or
(periods of time when breathing stops during sleep)
- Pain from soft tissue tumors or disease that has spread
- Severe nerve pain
- Varicose veins
Radiofrequency Ablation Results
Ablation procedure blocked impulses that had been causing atrial fibrillation.
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Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have ablation, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Bruising or bleeding
- Lung collapse
upon insertion of the probe (when the procedure involves the lung, liver, or upper kidney)
- Blood clots or damage to heart muscle or conduction pathways after procedures on the heart
- Liver abscess (small, localized collection of pus within a cavity left by the destroyed tissue)
- Damage to tissue surrounding the target area
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Bleeding problems
- Active infection
Your doctor may order:
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)—a test that records the electrical currents passing through the heart muscle
- Imaging tests like x-rays, ultrasound, or MRI
- Ask your doctor if you need to avoid eating or drinking before the procedure.
You will most likely be given a sedative to help you relax. Local anesthesia will be used to numb the area. If this is done as part of another surgery, you may have
An IV will be placed to give you fluids and medicine to help you relax. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure will be monitored. The area where the probe will be inserted is numbed.
The probe will be inserted into or directly up against the abnormal tissue.
images may be used to help guide the probe.
In some cases, once the probe is inserted, a number of electrodes will be placed into the area. This will let the doctor treat a larger area of tissue.
A small amount of heat will be introduced through the probe. The heat will destroy the abnormal tissue. The probe may be repositioned to destroy other areas of tissue.
You will be monitored for 2-3 hours after the procedure.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. You will be given medicine to help prevent most pain or discomfort.
It may be possible to leave the hospital on the same day of the procedure. You may need to stay overnight for your doctor to monitor you. Speak to your doctor to see if this is an option in your case.
Do not drive within the first 24 hours after the procedure. You may be asked to avoid strenuous activities. Be sure to follow your doctor’s
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
- Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
- Cough, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Gazelle GS, Goldberg SN, et al. Tumor ablation with radio-frequency energy.
RadiologyInfo website. Available at
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/sitemap/category.cfm?category=ir&bhcp=1. Accessed August 28, 2006.
American Heart Association website. Available at
http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4682. Accessed August 28, 2006.
Radiofrequency ablation. National Institutes of Health website. Available at
http://www.cc.nih.gov/drd/rfa/background.html. Accessed August 28, 2006.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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