What is radiofrequency ablation (needle burning) in lung cancer?


What is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?

It is the killing of cancer cells by heat generated by radio waves accompanied by imaging. Radiofrequency is a type of electrical energy. Ablation means “to destroy completely”. By heating the tumor with electrical energy, cancer cells are killed. It is applied in small-sized early stage “non-small cell lung cancers” where surgery cannot be performed or the patient does not want open surgery. It is also applied in “advanced lung cancer” that obstructs the airway and causes shortness of breath. It can also be performed in addition to other treatment methods (drug and radiation treatments). It can be applied several times as needed.

How is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) applied?

The procedure is performed by giving sedative and pain-relieving drugs intravenously and putting the patient to sleep (but without narcosis). Images are taken in the Computed Tomography device, and a special probe (a type of needle) is entered into the tumor in the lung from the skin (percutaneous) in the chest area. The reason why the procedure is done under the guidance of Computed Tomography is to make sure that the tip of the needle is in the right place. Then, the tip of this needle is connected to the generator and heat is created with radofrequency energy in a controlled manner. The burning process continues for about 15-30 minutes. Tumor tissue (cancer cells) is destroyed by the heat generated.

What are the side effects of Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?

When you wake up 1 hour after the procedure, you may feel a slight discomfort and pain in the treated area. You may need to take pain medication for a few days. There may be mild fever and feeling tired (flu-like condition) for several days. During this period, you must not work and rest.

As with lung biopsies, the most common complication (undesirable situation) after RF is the collapse of a part of your lung and the accumulation of air in the chest cavity (pneumothorax). This condition often does not require treatment, but some patients may need a chest tube.

Bleeding after RF is rare and, if it does happen, self-limiting. It does not require any additional treatment.

After RF, fluid accumulation may occur between the lung and its surrounding membrane. In this case, a needle is inserted and the fluid is drained.

What are the Advantages of Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) over Open Surgery?

It is the “least damaging” method compared to open surgery.

It is more easily tolerated because a part of your lung is not removed.

Recovery time is very short compared to surgery.

If given, drug treatment can be started immediately after the procedure (chemotherapy).

If the tumor recurs, there is a chance to be reapplied.

Often the patient does not require hospitalization.

There will be no stab wounds on your skin.

Who does Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?

“Interventional Radiology Specialist” performs the procedure under the guidance of Computed Tomography, accompanied by imaging. In order for the procedure to be safe and effective, the most important issue is to place the needle in the “correct way” and “correctly” to the tumor planned to be incinerated. An interventional radiologist with sufficient experience in this area (with previous experience in lung biopsies) should be selected.

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