Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is the only facility in the Southeast offering a new procedure for malignant tumors previously thought untreatable.
The procedure is called Tumor Ablation using Radiofrequency Energy. It involves inserting a special needle into the tumor, using ultrasound equipment as a guide, to destroy the tissue and obliterate the tumor.
"The tip of the needle emits radiofrequency energy, akin to microwave energy, and the tissue around the needle tip is destroyed," said Ronald Zagoria, M.D., professor of radiologic sciences. "This technique is mostly being used for patients with known liver cancers, patients who don''t want or can''t tolerate surgery or for patients who have several masses. This procedure allows us to destroy the tumor in a minimally-invasive way."
For liver lesions or bone tumors, the procedure is an excellent alternative, according to Zagoria. However, it is not designed to replace surgery.
"I would not want a patient to undergo this procedure if they have a tumor that can be easily removed by surgery," he said. "There are a lot of tumors that can''t be surgically removed or do not respond to radiation therapy or chemotherapy and this is an alternative -- another weapon we have in our armory."
Fortunately, size of the tumor does not matter, according to Zagoria. " For a large tumor we will actually treat numerous sides of it so that we try to get the entire tumor. At times, one 12-minute treatment is not enough. We can also re-treat the same area if the tumor returns."
An outpatient procedure, doctors use sedation during the procedure and patients often can treat any side effects with over-the-counter pain medication.
"Patients often resume normal activities that night," Zagoria said.
Tumor Ablation using Radiofrequency Energy is currently used most often for malignant tumors in the liver however; physicians use this for other tumors, including lung, renal, head and neck, or bone tumors. Currently, the procedure is performed on both children and adults at the medical center.
"For osteiod osteomas, this procedure is probably preferred over other treatments," he said. "And the best part is kids can return to the playground the very next day."