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Expandable electrodes safe and effective for radiofrequency ablation of liver tumors

The use of expandable electrodes with multiple tips in the treatment of liver tumors by radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is safe and effective, making it a useful alternative to surgery in selected patients, say researchers from the University of Brescia in Italy.

In RFA, electrodes are used to distribute heat-generating electric current to the tumor in order to destroy it. "Expanding electrodes are different from single-tip electrodes in that all the multiple electrode tips of an expanding electrode are active so that heat distribution within the tumor is more homogeneous and a reproducible sphere of ablation is created every time," said Paolo Cabassa, MD, lead researcher on the study. In addition to the more even distribution of heat, the expanding electrodes include other safety features. The hooks of the electrode are fixed within the liver tissue when deployed so no needle movement is possible during RFA, which makes the procedure safer, and no electrode cooling is required during ablation, making the procedure easier and quicker.

For the study, the researchers, analyzed the results of RFA with expandable electrodes in 68 liver tumors in 59 patients. They found that survival rates for the patients were 94%, 65% and 43% at one, three and five years, respectively, which, according to the authors, is comparable to the best results of surgery. Disease-free rates were 32%, 28% and 18% at one, two and three years, respectively. Only one major complication occurred out of all the RFA procedures, and it was remedied with a transfusion.

"RFA is a safe and effective technique to treat liver tumors. Our results show that patients can benefit from this minimally invasive procedure and that it can also be considered as an alternative to surgery in selected cases," said Dr. Cabassa.

Dr. Cabassa will present the full results of the study on May 17 during the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.


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