Microwave Ablation

If you have kidney, liver or lung cancer, microwave ablation may be part of your treatment. Our multidisciplinary, interventional radiology team* works closely with your referring physician to ensure you receive the best treatment to meet your needs. In addition, our clinical nurse coordinators assist you in planning, scheduling and following up after your treatment.

What is microwave ablation?

Microwave ablation uses microwave energy to generate heat to kill and shrink cancerous tumor cells in your kidney, lungs and liver. Northwestern Medicine interventional oncologists place a small microwave antenna inside a tumor to slow the progression of tumor growth or shrink them to the point where they can be safely removed with surgery.

Your physician will use a CT scan to locate the tumor and insert the antenna through a small incision, guiding the probe to the tumor with continued assistance from the CT. Once the energy source is activated, the heat shrinks and kills cancerous tumor cells, turning them to scar tissue. Because heat also helps close blood vessels nearby, you are typically at a lower risk for blood loss.

Microwave ablation is usually performed as an outpatient procedure.

Benefits and risks

Benefits of microwave ablation include:

  • Spares the majority of healthy tissue and can be repeated as often as necessary
  • Is well tolerated, and most patients can resume a normal routine within a few days
  • Is less painful and easier on you than open surgery or systemic therapy to remove tumors
  • Can alleviate pain and other debilitating symptoms caused by tumors
  • Uses image guidance, so can provide precise areas for ablation or burning
  • Can be combined with other treatment options when needed
  • Can be used to reduce the size of your tumor, so that it can be more easily eliminated by chemotherapy or radiation

There are risks following microwave ablation. After the procedure, some patients may experience a small amount of pain or discomfort at or near the area treated. Also, any procedure where the skin is penetrated carries a risk of infection.

Depending on the area being treated, different risks exist, including:

  • Liver: Treatment may cause inflammation of the gallbladder, damage to the bile ducts or to the bowel.
  • Kidney: Treatment can damage the urine collecting system or cause heavy bleeding.
  • Lungs: Treatment may cause a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) or fluid to accumulate around the lungs.

In addition, some patients may experience post-ablation syndrome, which causes flu-like symptoms that appear three to five days after the procedure and usually last about 5 to 10 days. These symptoms can be treated with Tylenol® or ibuprofen.

These risks are rare. Discuss any concerns you have with your physician. Medication can be provided if needed to help prevent or relieve any pain from the procedure.

Locations & Contact Information

    In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.