Ablation Therapies for Liver Cancer & Liver Metastases

Some people cannot have surgery to remove a liver tumor because they have severe cirrhosis or a tumor that is too close to important blood vessels. For these people, Perlmutter Cancer Center doctors may recommend ablation therapies, which are minimally invasive techniques that use extreme heat to destroy cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue.

Ablation therapy is also a treatment option for people who have liver metastases and can help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Although ablation therapies do not remove tumors, they can cause complete remission, especially if tumors are 3 centimeters in diameter or smaller.

Ablation therapies are also used to destroy tumors and reduce the number of tumors in people who are waiting for a liver transplant.

Liver Tumor Program

Our experts use advanced treatment techniques, including ablation therapies to treat liver cancer and liver metastases.

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An interventional radiologist, a doctor who specializes in treating conditions using minimally invasive techniques with imaging guidance, usually performs ablation procedures. Sometimes, surgeons use laparoscopy or open surgery to perform ablation procedures.

Types of Ablation Therapies

Ablation therapy usually consists of heat therapy in which either high-energy radio waves, called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), or electromagnetic waves, called microwave ablation (MWA), are used.

During ablation therapy, heat is transmitted from a special machine through a needle-shaped probe placed into a liver tumor. With the guidance of an imaging technique, such as ultrasound or a CT scan, the doctor inserts the probe through the skin and into the liver and the tumor.

Imaging is also used during the procedure to monitor treatment and determine whether the approach is helping to destroy tumor tissue and ensure an adequate tissue margin, which is the border of healthy tissue around the tumor.

Ablation Therapies During Surgery

Sometimes surgeons perform ablation procedures using laparoscopic surgery. During laparoscopy, the surgeon makes a few small incisions near the liver and places the ablation probe or needles and a laparoscope, a lighted tube with a tiny camera on it, into the incisions.

Surgeons may use laparoscopy for people who have tumors that are near other vital structures, such as the gallbladder or the intestines.

Ablation approaches can also be used to help manage liver tumors immediately before removing a tumor during open surgery. Doctors may use ablation to help ensure the tumor margin is adequate before the tumor is surgically removed.

An anesthesiologist makes sure you’re comfortable during an ablation procedure, no matter how it is done, whether with a needle probe or during surgery.

Recovery from Ablation Therapies

Ablation therapy that is performed using a needle probe may require only a few hours of recovery time or an overnight stay in the hospital. Laparoscopic or open procedures may require a few days of in-hospital recovery. Our specialists can manage any pain you may experience. Most people return to their regular activities a few days later.

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