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Percutaneous Radiofrequency / Microwave Ablation 

Percutaneous Radiofrequency  or Microwave ablation is a minimally invasive procedure to treat cancer. Cancer cell is killed by heat generated by radio waves or microwaves. It is performed by the interventional radiologist in the CT scanning room. Under ultrasound and CT guidance, through a tiny skin incision, a probe (antenna usually less than 2-3mm diameter) is inserted into the tumour. The probe is connected to a generator that delivers radio waves or microwaves into the probe’s tip. This heat energy kills the cells in a small area around the probe tip. 

Depending on the tumour’s size, the probe may be guided and repositioned during the procedure to try to destroy the whole tumour. A small margin of normal tissue near the tumour is also destroyed to ensure complete ablation. 

Are there risks from ablation? 

  • Most patients tolerate this procedure well. You may feel some pain at the site after the procedure. Pain medication is available if you need it.
  • Bruising or internal bleeding may occur.
  • The dead tumour may become infected.
  • Damage to adjacent tissue/organ can occur. The risk is minimised by close monitoring using imaging.
  • If the tumour being treated is in your liver or upper kidney, there is a small risk of lung collapse (pneumothorax) when the probe is inserted.


  • You may be required to have some blood tests done a few days before the procedure.
  • You must not have any solid foods for 8 hours before the procedure. You may have small amount of clear fluid and take your usual medication with water.


  • Most patients will be on strict bed rest for 2 to 3 hours after the procedure.
  • The nurse will monitor your vital signs until you have recovered from the sedation.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated.
  • You may resume your usual diet as soon as you feel up to it.
  • You might need to stay 1-2 nights.

Special Instructions: 

  • Do not drive a car, do not make any important decisions, and do not sign legal documents for 24 hours after the procedure. The sedation you received may affect your judgment until it clears from your body.
  • Do no excessive physical activity for 24 hours.

What to watch out for:

Notify us, see your doctor or come to SAN Emergency Department immediately if any of the following occur: 

  • chills and fever of 38.5 ºC.
  • lightheadedness, dizziness, or feeling faint.
  • difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain with breathing, or chest pain.
  • bleeding or swelling at the probe insertion site.
  • no urine output for 4 hours after the procedure.
  • redness, drainage, or tenderness at the probe insertion site.
For any procedural related problems or questions, please call Sydney IR on 9473 8728.  If you feel you need immediate assistance, go to SAN Emergency Department for assessment and they can contact us for advice. 


The interventional radiologist would like to see you in about a month with blood tests and a CT scan to review the progress.