Radiofrequency Ablation

(RFA)

Definition

Radiofrequency ablation uses energy to heat and destroy an area of tissue.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is used to destroy abnormal tissue that may be causing health problems. It may be used to treat:

Radiofrequency Ablation Results

cardiac ablation heart
Ablation procedure blocked impulses that had been causing atrial fibrillation.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will go over some problems that could happen such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to other organs or structures

Things that may increase the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
  • Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
  • Tests that will need to be done before the procedure

Anesthesia

Local anesthesia will be used—the area will be numbed.

If this is done as part of another surgery, you may have:

Description of the Procedure

The exact steps will depend on where the tissue is located. A probe is applied to the area. Or the probe may be passed through a small tube to the area. Imaging such as a CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI scan will help guide the doctor to the area.

A small amount of electricity is passed through the tube. This heats and destroys the tissue. The probe may also be used to destroy other areas of tissue.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10 to 60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Pain after the procedure depends on the location and amount of tissue. Medicine and home care help

Average Hospital Stay

Some may leave the hospital on the same day. Others will need to stay overnight so the doctor can check them.

Post-procedure Care

Most return to normal activities within a few days.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, excess bleeding, or any discharge from the incision
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines
  • Cough, problems breathing, pounding heart, or chest pain
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Cancer Society
https://www.cancer.org
Radiology Info—The Radiological Society of North America
https://www.radiologyinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca

References:

Ablation therapy for atrial fibrillation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/atrial-fibrillation . Accessed July 20, 2021.
Cardiac procedures and surgeries. American Heart Association website. Available at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/treatment-of-a-heart-attack/cardiac-procedures-and-surgeries#.Wh3RRlWnFxA. Accessed July 20, 2021.
Radiofrequency ablation background. National Institutes of Health website. Available at https://www.cc.nih.gov/drd/rfa/background.html. Accessed July 20, 2021.
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/rfalung . Accessed July 20, 2021.
Reccia I, Kumar J, Habib N, Sodergren M. The use of radiofrequency ablation in pancreatic cancer in the midst of the dawn of immuno-oncology. Med Oncol. 2018;35(12):151.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/20/2021

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