Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), the use of electrodes to heat and destroy abnormal tissue, is a promising technique to safely and effectively treat patients with inoperable lung tumors, say researchers from the IRCCS Hospital of Oncology in Bari, Italy.
In a study that focused on 18 patients with lung tumors ineligible for surgery, forty nodules were treated by lung RFA. Upon regular follow-up, no relapse was detected in 94% of the patients.
According to Cosmo Gadaleta, MD, lead author of the study, most lung tumors are inoperable due to serious coexisting health conditions or poor respiratory function in the patient. Certain of these types of inoperable tumors have been treated using radiotherapy, which can cause serious toxicity in a patient, and chemotherapy, which is not tolerable by all patients.
"Lung RFA can get around all those problems. It is minimally invasive, with only a small needle being inserted into the patient. It is also advantageous because of potentially low costs, short hospitalization times, and good patient tolerance without mortality," said Dr. Gadaleta.
Complications from the lung RFA performed were minor and included pneumothorax , the abnormal presence of air in the pleural cavity resulting in the collapse of the lung, which occurred in three of the patients. "Pneumothorax occurred in a small percentage of cases, and each occurrence was treated successfully with pleural drainage. The risk is small when compared to the benefits of lung RFA, and, since the radiology team anticipates the possibility of pneumothorax developing as a result of the procedure, they carefully monitor the patient so they can quickly treat any complications."
Dr. Gadaleta also expressed optimism for using lung RFA for treating patients with certain operable lung tumors, as well. "We feel that lung RFA could become more prevalent, first for patients who are not candidates for surgery, but also as an alternative to surgery for operable primary lung tumors, as long as the tumor is not too large."
The article appears in the August 2004 issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.
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