Percutaneous Tumor Ablation: A New Treatment for Tumors at NYM

Oct 2, 2008

doctor talking to patient on MRI machine

Leonard Berliner, M.D., chief of interventional radiology with a patient who is about to undergo a CT scan, prior to a cryoablation procedure.

Surgery is most frequently the front-line treatment for malignant tumors; however, not every patient is considered a good candidate for surgery, due to frailness, age, or other factors. For these patients, New York Methodist Hospital's Department of Radiology has recently begun offering cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation (RFA), two minimally invasive treatments for cancer. These techniques are often combined with other treatment options, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Cryoablation involves freezing a tumor through the placement of probes that generate an "ice ball" around the cancerous tissue. Radiofrequency ablation uses electrodes to transmit radiofrequency energy (similar to microwaves) from the tip of the needle, where it produces heat in the tissues. RFA is effective for small to medium-sized tumors. Depending on the size of the tumor, these palliative treatments can shrink or kill the tumor, which can sometimes extend the patient's survival time and greatly improve quality of life. Interventional radiologists perform both procedures.

In the last year, the department at NYM has successfully treated a number of patients with liver, kidney, bone, and lung tumors using cryoablation and RFA. Because these are local treatments, they do not harm healthy tissue and can be repeated as often as needed to keep patients comfortable. The procedures are very safe, with complication rates on the order of two to three percent.

According to Leonard Berliner, M.D., chief of interventional radiology at NYM, the choice of RFA vs. cryoablation is made on an individual, case-by-case basis. Patients usually go home the day following the procedure.

"These procedures provide new options for the treatment of cancer, while causing minimal discomfort for patients, said Steven Garner, M.D., chairman of radiology.

Dr. Garner and Dr. Berliner look forward to expanding the use of these efficient and minimally invasive techniques as physicians and their patients become more aware of the possibilities they offer. For more information regarding cryoablation and RFA at New York Methodist Hospital, please call the Department of Radiology at 718-780-5870.