Purpose of review: This article provides an overview of recent developments in the field of thermal ablation for renal cell carcinoma and focuses on current standard techniques, new technologies, imaging for ablation guidance and evaluation, and future perspectives.
Recent findings: Emerging long-term data on cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) show marginally lower oncologic outcomes compared to surgical treatment, balanced by better functional and perioperative outcomes. Reports on residual disease vary widely, influenced by different definitions and strategies in determining ablation failure. Stratifying disease-free survival after RFA according to tumor size suggests 3 cm to be a reasonable cut off for RFA tumor selection. Microwave ablation and high-intensity focal ultrasound are modalities with the potential of creating localized high temperatures. However, difficulties in renal implementation are impairing sufficient ablation results. Irreversible electroporation, although not strictly thermal, is a new technology showing promising results in animal and early human research.
Summary: Although high-level randomized controlled trials comparing thermal ablation techniques are lacking, evidence shows that thermal ablation for small renal masses is a safe procedure for both long-term oncologic and functional outcomes. Thermal ablation continues to be associated with a low risk of residual disease, for which candidates should be properly informed. RFA and cryoablation remain the standard techniques whereas alternative techniques require further studies.