About the procedure

Percutaneous Ablation Therapy is a procedure that presents a minimally-invasive approach to destroying inoperable or metastasized tumors. This procedure is routinely used to treat tumors in the lung, kidney, bones and liver. It is an important treatment in the fight against small hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) because fewer than 40% of patients are candidates for surgical treatment, and recurrence of tumors after surgery is high. Percutaneous ablation offers a local treatment option to supplement systemic therapy that has few complications and is appreciated by patients because they can often go home the same day or after an overnight hospital stay.

The goal of ablation therapy is to destroy individual tumors that cannot be easily excised via traditional surgical methods. Treatment is limited to the areas of the tumor, sparing the rest of the liver and reducing possible complications or side effects. MTV IR interventional radiologists focus on treatment of small (3 to 5 cm.) tumors, and small numbers of them. In the procedure, a tiny needle is inserted into the tumor, guided precisely into place by ultrasound or CT scanning.

Once the percutaneous needle is in place, destruction of the tumor is most often achieved by thermal ablation – microwave or radiofrequency – to expose cancerous tissues to high temperatures for several minutes. There are other techniques of percutaneous ablation, in which removal of the tumor is achieved by cryoablation (reducing the tumor to subzero temperatures using liquid nitrogen), or percutaneous ethanol installation (in which alcohol is injected directed into the tumor). Depending on the number of tumors being treated, a combination of these techniques may be used.

The use of percutaneous ablation is appropriate in the following cases:

  • Early stage HCC – small tumors with disease limited to the liver
  • Inoperable primary liver tumors
  • Liver metastasis, especially in patients who are not operative candidates
  • Patients who cannot undergo general anesthesia
  • Patients with recurring small tumors or who are waiting for liver transplant

Percutaneous ablation is often contraindicated in cases where the tumor is very large in size or large in number. Other contraindications would include cases where the tumor is difficult to reach or in an unsafe location to treat by percutaneous means.

What to expect

The procedure will be performed in a hospital by interventional radiologists of MTV IR. Percutaneous ablation is most often performed under local anesthesia (to numb the insertion point for the needle) plus moderate sedation, often allowing the patient to go home the same day. In some cases, patients prefer general anesthesia, which may require an overnight hospital stay. You should not eat or drink for six hours before the procedure.

If you prefer moderate sedation, you may experience some mild discomfort at the site where the needle is inserted or in the area being ablated. It is possible to experience some fatigue and muscle aches in the first days following the procedures, but full recovery is very fast after that.

When you arrive for your procedure, medical staff will insert an intravenous catheter into your arm to control sedation or anesthesia during the procedure. Your vital signs will be monitored and you will be taken to the CT scanner for the procedure.

Results of the procedure are judged by a CT or MRI scan of the liver performed a month following the ablation. The treatment is deemed successful if all traces of the tumor have been destroyed. If this is not the case, the procedure can be safely repeated, because the advantage of percutaneous ablation is that it destroys very little surrounding liver tissue. Your progress will be monitored with CT or MRI scans at regular intervals after that to make sure there is no reoccurrence of the disease.

Getting the best interventional radiology care possible

At MTV IR, all of our specialists are board-certified interventional radiologists with years of experience in using these state-of-the-art techniques. We work closely with your oncologist and surgical oncologist to make sure the procedure is right for you, and will offer you the best, most comfortable, and most effective treatment possible.