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Radiofrequency Ablation of the Liver
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What do I need to know about radiofrequency ablation of the liver?
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a procedure that uses electrical currents to destroy cancer cells in your liver. A needle electrode delivers an electrical current that creates heat and destroys the tumor. This procedure is commonly used for small tumors.
How do I prepare for RFA of the liver?
Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. He may ask you to stop taking aspirin, NSAIDs, or blood thinners for a period of time before your procedure.
What will happen during RFA of the liver?
- You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. 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 healthcare provider may use a CT scan, MRI, or an ultrasound to guide the needle electrode to the tumor.
- Your healthcare provider will make a small cut in your skin. He may need to make more than 1 small cut or 1 larger cut. He will pass a needle or probe through this opening. Your healthcare provider will guide the needle electrode to the tumor and apply heat. He may need to move the needle and apply heat to different parts of the tumor to make sure the entire tumor is destroyed. He 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 liver?
- 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. You may have abdominal pain.
- Parts of your liver may be damaged by the electrical current during your procedure. Organs or tissues near your liver may also be damaged. It is possible that not all of the tumor will be destroyed, or that the tumor will return. Your lung may collapse (pneumothorax). This can be life-threatening.
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