Radiofrequency Ablation and Cryoablation (MSK patients)
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a way to
treat tumors inside and around bone. RFA is
less invasive than surgery. Recovery is
much faster. It is done by a radiologist who
uses a CT scan for guidance. For your
comfort, general anesthesia is used. When
treating benign tumors, RFA is done on an
outpatient basis, meaning you will be able to
go home that same day. There are times
when patients will need to stay for one
night, most often when the treatment is for a
malignant tumor. During the RFA, thin
needles are placed through the skin into the
tumor. Low level electric current is sent
through the needles into the tumor. The heat
from the current destroys the tumor tissue.
Problems that follow are rare, but can
include bleeding, infection, or damage to
normal body parts nearby but will depend on
where your tumor is. The treatment site is
most often sore for a few days.
Cryoablation is another technique used to
treat tumors inside and around bone. Thin
needles are placed through the skin into the
tumor. Extreme cold is sent through them to
freeze the tumor tissue. Again, major
problems after the treatment are rare, and are
the same as those from RFA.
The radiologist will decide which treatment,
RFA or cryoablation, will work best for you.
How to Prepare for Your Procedure
ξ You will need to complete a history and
physical exam with your primary
physician within 30 days of the
procedure. This includes a chest x-ray
and EKG (test that shows the hearts
ξ Depending on your health history, you
may need to be evaluated in the
anesthesia clinic prior to the procedure.
ξ The Nurse Coordinator will review your
allergies and medications with you.
Further instructions will be provided if
you take blood thinners, such as Plavix
or Coumadin; or, if you take medications
ξ You will be asked to stop taking aspirin
seven days before the procedure.
ξ You will be asked to stop taking
antiinflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen,
Aleve, or Advil, two days prior to your
ξ You will be asked to stop all
supplements seven days prior to your
ξ If you are started on antibiotics for an
infection prior to the procedure call the
ξ If you have sleep apnea, you will need to
bring your CPAP or BiPAP machine
with you on the day of the procedure.
ξ Bring inhalers and any medications you
will need with you.
ξ You may require an overnight stay in the
hospital for observation.
ξ If you are sent home the same day as
your procedure, you must have a friend
or family member drive you to the
hospital and take you home.
ξ Do not drive or make important personal
or business decisions until the next day.
ξ Tell us if you have a pacemaker,
implanted defibrillator, metal
prostheses (joint replacements), bile
duct stents, or have had bile duct or
bowel surgery before.
ξ Do not eat or drink after midnight the
night before your procedure.
On the day of the procedure, enter the
hospital through the clinic entrance and take
the Atrium elevators to the 3rd floor. Check
in at the (G3/3) Radiology desk. You will
be taken to a preparation area where you
will change into a gown. An intravenous
(IV) line will be placed in your vein by a
nurse. The doctor will meet you in the prep
room to explain the risks and benefits of the
procedure; and, answer all your questions or
concerns. After your questions have been
answered, you will sign a consent form.
At this point, you will be brought to the
procedure room on a cart. Cryoablation and
Radiofrequency ablation are performed in a
CT scan room. You will be transferred to a
procedure table. An anesthesiologist will
give you general anesthesia. Monitors will
check your blood pressure, heart rate, and
oxygen level. You will have an IV
(intravenous) line placed in your arm for
medicines and fluids. Your ablation will last
2 to 6 hours. A catheter might be placed in
After the Procedure
When you wake up, you will be in the
recovery room where the nurses will check
your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature
often. It is normal to have mild pain at the
ablation site for more than a few hours. Pain
medicine will be offered to you if needed.
You may have mild nausea. When you are
fully awake, you will be able to drink and
eat. A nurse will call you several days after
the procedure. The doctor will see you back
in clinic in 2-3 weeks.
Care at Home
ξ Resume your normal diet, no alcohol
for the first 24 hours after the
ξ Continue your medications for your
ξ Restart NSAIDS (non-steroidal
antiinflammatory drugs) like
Ibuprofen, Aleve, or Advil, the day
after your procedure.
ξ May use ice, not directly on the skin,
for 20 minute intervals to help
decrease swelling and discomfort.
ξ It is okay to shower, but no baths
tubs, hot tubs, or swimming for at
least 3 days.
ξ Two days after the procedure, you
will need to remove the clear
dressing and gauze.
ξ You will have steri strips (small
white band aids) covering your
incision. They should stay on for
seven days. It is okay if they fall off
on their own.
When to contact the Radiologist
You or one of your family members should
call the doctor if any of these symptoms
1. Severe pain around the site.
2. Nausea or vomiting that won’t go
3. If the area around the site becomes red,
swollen, or more painful. You have a
white or yellow pus or drainage from
the site. You have a fever greater than
100.4º F or 38º C.
▪ Musculoskeletal Nurse Coordinator:
▪ After 5:00 p.m. or weekends, call
(608) 263-6400. Please ask for the
Bone Radiologist. Leave your name
and phone number with the area
code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call
▪ If you need to reschedule, call
(608) 263-6871 between 8:00 a.m. to
▪ If you are in need of immediate help,
call 911 or go to the nearest
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6691.