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Ablation Surgery

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Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area.
Ablation Surgery2019-12-04T14:47:29+00:00

Overview and Indications

Ablation surgery is a minimally invasive surgical approach used to destroy tumors by “burning” or “freezing” them. This approach may be used for certain patients, such as those with tumors no larger than 3 centimeters or for whom surgery is not a good option.

Ablation is performed by inserting a needle or thin probe into the tumor through the skin. The needle or probe is guided with an ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging.

Different types of ablation include:

  • Radio frequency ablation, which uses high frequency radio waves to heat the tumor and destroy the cancer cells
  • Cryosurgery, which destroys a tumor by freezing it, using cold gasses

The most common cancers treated by this method are lung cancer, liver cancer and kidney (renal) cancer. Other cancers can also be treated, provided they are accessible and of appropriate size.

For patients with lung cancer, lung ablation is performed by a highly skilled radiologist who uses a CT-guided probe — either a cryoprobe to freeze or a microwave probe to burn cells — to precisely target and destroy lung cancer tumors and cells, with minimal impact to the surrounding healthy lung tissue. Ablation is an effective treatment option for smaller lung cancer lesions, and due to its lung-preserving qualities, it can also be leveraged to treat and destroy multiple lung cancer tumors and lesions at different times, over the course of a comprehensive lung cancer treatment plan.

For patients with intra-abdominal tumors, ablation is performed by expert urologic surgeons, using high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). The HIFU system enables surgeons to penetrate the abdominal cavity with keyhole cuts, to eliminate tumors of 4 centimeters or less.