Radiofrequency Ablation

Contact Information

(608) 263-XRAY

(608) 263-9729


Types of Tumor Ablation


Microwave Ablation

Radiofrequency Ablation


Research and Education

UW Department of Radiology: Radiofrequency Ablation

What is Radiofrequency Ablation?


Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure for treating certain internal pain sources and various malignant and benign tumors.


RFA is based on the same principles as standard surgical electrocautery. Electric current is conducted into the body via an electrode and exits through ground pads that are usually placed on the lower extremities.


When is RFA Used?


RFA has two specific musculoskeletal/bone applications:

  • For treatment of osteoid osteomas (small, benign bone tumors that usually occur in teenagers and young adults). RFA eradicates these painful lesions without requiring an open operation, minimizing expense, recovery time and risk of complications.
  • To alleviate pain caused by cancer that has spread to the bones (metastases). The primary goal in these patients is to improve their quality of life. Cure is usually not the explicit goal of RFA in bone metastases because the cancer has already spread and RFA is directed at only one site. RFA has been especially effective for tumors that do not respond to radiation therapy.

The Procedure


RFA is accomplished by passing a specialized needle device through the skin and into the target lesion, using CAT scan, ultrasound, MRI or fluoroscopy to help guide access. When the needle is in the target, a controlled electrical current is applied through the tip, which heats the needle tip and destroys the adjacent target tissues. This procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia, less commonly with heavy sedation and intravenous pain medication.