Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)


RFA is a medical treatment to ablate liver cancer or tumor from any part of the body with the help of electrode needle placed through the skin, generating heat with a high frequency current ranging from 350-500 kHz. The procedure is performed by an anesthesiologist, radiologist, cardiologist or surgical endoscopist in an outpatient setting using anesthesia with the image guidance such as X-ray, CT Scan or Ultrasound. The main benefits from this procedure include no collateral damage along with any harmful effects of heart muscles and nerves.

When does Radiofrequency Ablation is required to be performed?

The procedure is used to cure liver cancers such as hepatocellular carcinoma and colon cancer. Apart from that, it is most effectual in treating tumors not bigger than one and a half inch of diameter. RFA can also be utilized in radiation therapy or chemotherapy or as a substitute of surgery.

There are certain conditions as well that requires RFA needs to be done as surgical procedures cannot be performed due to high risk. These conditions include

  • Patient not suitable for surgery due to larger tumor
  • Complications of other medical conditions that increases the risk of surgery
  • Having not enough tissue after the tumor is removed
  • Having a liver tumor that can’t be removed from chemotherapy
  • Or containing too many small tumors that are too difficult to be removed through surgery


Preparing for the treatment

The physician may ask you to not have breakfast before the procedure. You will be placed on the examining table and cables will be connected to track your heart rate, pulse rate and BP. The technician or nurse will insert IV line into your arm to provide sedation medication. Local anesthetic will be given to numb your muscles to keep you awake during the process while general anesthetic may be used and placing a breathing tube after you are asleep.

RFA procedure can be performed by three different methods

  • Surgery
  • Percutaneous, where high frequency current is passed through an electrode needle into the skin where the tumor is detected.
  • Laparoscopic, where an electrode within a thin plastic tube in inserted into the skin.

Image guidance helps the doctor to detect the tumor and by using any of above mentioned method, the tumor is ablated from the body. In case of larger tumor, multiple ablation is performed by positioning the electrode to a different part of the tumor. After the procedure, the needle is removed, and the bleeding is stopped.


Like any surgical process, RFA too involves few risks that can be prevented with better care. These complications include

  • Infections, although chances are one in thousands
  • Shoulder pain
  • Biliary obstruction
  • Thermal damage to the bowel
  • Post ablative syndrome like flu may be caused for few days post RFA
  • Bleeding
  • Injury at organs and tissues
  • Abscess
  • Severe pain, which is most unlikely

Although, these complications occur in 3-4% of patients, it is still advisable to consult your doctor, if you witness any abnormalities in the body after the procedure.

Post operative care

You may be advised to take pain medication after the procedure if you feel any.

Resuming to your normal life would generally take only a few days.

Prescription such as Advil and Motrin will need to be taken thrice a day for a couple of weeks.

You can resume your normal diet soon after the procedure.

You will require to walk a lot along with other activities such as climbing stairs

As for the wound, do no soak it for at least a week and keep the white strips until they fall out on their own.