Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Radiofrequency ablation is the use of electrical energy to heat and destroy an area of tissue.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Radiofrequency ablation is used to destroy abnormal tissue that may be causing health problems or symptoms. Conditions that may be managed or treated with ablation include:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Description of the Procedure TOP
The exact steps of the procedure will depend on where the tissue is located. The tool will be a probe that is applied directly to the area or passed through a catheter to the area. Imaging devices such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI scan will be used to help guide the doctor to the area.
A small amount of electricity is passed through the tube which heats and destroys the selected tissue. The probe may be repositioned to destroy other areas of tissue.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
You will be monitored for 2-3 hours after the procedure.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 10-60 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure will depend on the location and amount of tissue that was involved. Discomfort during recovery can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
It may be possible to leave the hospital on the same day of the procedure. Some will need to stay overnight so that the doctor can monitor them.
Post-procedure Care TOP
Most return to normal activities within a few days of the procedure.
Call Your Doctor TOP
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
Radiology Info—The Radiological Society of North America
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
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Cardiac procedures and surgeries. American Heart Association website. Available at
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Radiofrequency ablation background. National Institutes of Health website. Available at https://www.cc.nih.gov/drd/rfa/background.html. Updated June 22, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2017.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)/Microwave ablation (MWA) of lung tumors. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=rfalung. Upated August 15, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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