European Radiology

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 960–967 | Cite as

Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation of renal cell carcinoma

  • Debra A. GervaisEmail author
  • Ronald S. Arellano
  • Peter R. Mueller


Conventional curative therapy for renal cell carcinoma has been open nephrectomy. However, several less invasive and/or nephron-sparing procedures have been developed as alternatives in selected patients. The newest of these therapeutic modalities involves percutaneous image-guided ablation with straight or expandable needle applicators that deposit energy. Radiofrequency ablation is the modality for which there is the largest reported experience with percutaneous application, and involves the use of electrical current to generate frictional heating of tissue. Animal studies confirm the ability of radiofrequency ablation to cause regions of necrosis within normal kidney and in VX2 tumors. Clinically, radiofrequency ablation of small renal cell carcinoma is increasingly being performed in selected patients who are not ideal surgical candidates. Results are excellent for small exophytic tumors, but successful treatment is less likely as tumor size increases or the location becomes more central. Complete treatment of most tumors requires one or more overlapping ablations with the needle electrodes positioned so as to cause necrosis in the entire volume of tumor. The number of overlapping ablations and the position of the needle electrodes vary based on tumor size and geometry. For very large tumors, pre-ablation catheter embolization may enhance the results of ablation by decreasing blood flow and perfusion mediated cooling. Following ablation, imaging with CT or MR is performed to assess the result and to diagnose any residual tumor so that it can be treated. Because the tumor remains in situ, imaging follow-up continues indefinitely. The complication rate of radiofrequency ablation is favorable when compared to surgical techniques. Long-term survival data are not yet available.


Kidney neoplasms Radiofrequency ablation, therapy Kidney Interventional procedures 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Debra A. Gervais
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ronald S. Arellano
    • 1
  • Peter R. Mueller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Radiology, Division of Abdominal Imaging and InterventionMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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