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Radiofrequency Ablation of the Kidney

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about RFA of the kidney?

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a procedure that uses electrical currents to destroy cancer cells in your kidney. A needle electrode delivers an electrical current that creates heat and destroys the tumor.

How do I prepare for RFA of the kidney?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for this procedure. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.

What will happen during RFA of the kidney?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during this procedure. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the area where the procedure will be done. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but you should not feel any pain. Your may use a CT scan, MRI, or an ultrasound to guide the needle electrode to the tumor.
  • Your will make a small cut in your skin. He or she may need to make more than 1 small cut or 1 larger cut. He or she will pass a needle or probe through this opening. Your will guide the needle electrode to the tumor and apply heat. He or she may need to move the needle and apply heat to different parts of the tumor to make sure the entire tumor is destroyed. He or she will remove the needle and apply pressure to the area to stop bleeding. The area will be covered with dressing.

What are the risks of RFA of the kidney?

  • You may have pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the area where the procedure was done. You may also have blood in your urine. You may develop a condition called post-ablation syndrome. This condition causes symptoms similar to the flu that occur 3 to 5 days after your procedure. These symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, and muscle pain that usually last about 5 days.
  • You may bleed more than expected or get an infection during your procedure. Parts of your kidney may be damaged by the electrical current during your procedure. Organs or tissues near your kidney may also be damaged. Your lung may collapse (pneumothorax). This can be life-threatening.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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