Preliminary data regarding the use of percutaneous radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for the treatment of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) are encouraging, and show the technique to be associated with minimal morbidity. Thus, the current study was designed to evaluate the clinical applications, treatment efficacy, and complications of percutaneous RFA in RCC.
From February 2003 to February 2004, 12 consecutive patients with histopathologically proven RCC underwent imaging-guided percutaneous RFA. The mean age of the patients (8 men and 4 women) was 76 years (range, 56-87 years), and mean tumor diameter was 3.7 cm (range, 2.2-8.0 cm). The efficacy of RFA was evaluated with contrast-enhanced, dynamic computed tomography (CT) performed 1 month after treatment, and then every 3 months. A Radionics device with an internally cooled electrode was used in 7 patients, and a radiofrequency interstitial tissue ablation (RITA) device with an expandable needle electrode was used in 5. Complete necrosis was defined as a lack of contrast enhancement in the treated region on follow-up CT studies.
Overall, 16 sessions of RFA were performed for 12 solitary renal tumors in 12 patients: 8 patients underwent a single RFA session, whereas 4 had 2 sessions. Dynamic CT after RFA showed complete necrosis in 9 of 12 tumors. In 3 patients with tumors of 4.5-8.0 cm in diameter, enhancement of residual tissue was observed after RFA treatment, thus indicating residual tumor. Complete tumor necrosis was seen in all 5 tumors (100%) of diameter = 3.0 cm; 3 of 4 tumors (75%) of diameter 3.1-5.0 cm; and 1 of 3 tumors (33%) of diameter > 5.0 cm. A big subcapsular hematoma, which was found in 1 patient after RFA, resolved completely within 10 months without treatment; no serious complications occurred in the other 11 patients.
Percutaneous RFA is effective in the treatment of RCC. It is most successful for tumors not larger than 3 cm in diameter, and has a satisfactory success rate in tumors of 3-5 cm in diameter. The rate of serious complications of RFA is low. Further studies are necessary to determine the long-term efficacy of RFA in RCC.