Ablation allows the doctor to destroy the tumor(s) in a minimally-invasive way – using few or very small incisions. Ultrasound, CT or MRI images allow the doctor to see the liver in real time while performing the ablation procedure.

Guided by images of the liver, the doctor places the ablation antenna into the center of the tumor. There the antenna delivers heat energy to destroy the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. 

You will receive ablation treatment as an outpatient. Your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is appropriate for you.


For some patients, ablation may be used in addition to chemotherapy, radiation or other therapies. 

Not all liver cancer patients respond to treatments like chemotherapy. Studies show that ablation is a good alternative therapy when the tumor(s) cannot be removed surgically or when the patient is waiting for a liver transplant.

Doctors generally make a decision to use ablation based on certain guidelines. For example, the tumor and surrounding normal tissues need to be located where the doctor can reach them in a minimally-invasive procedure.([FOOTNOTE=Vascular and Interventional Radiology: Tumor Ablation. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed February 23, 2017.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]) Also, ablation is generally more effective when used on tumors that are less than 1.18 inches (3 centimeters) in size.3,([FOOTNOTE=American Cancer Society. Liver Cancer. Updated April 28, 2016. Accessed December 21, 2016.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])

Your doctor will discuss with you the reasons for recommending ablation to treat your liver cancer.

What to expect about your ablation procedure

Ablation is a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure that is performed in a hospital operating room. You will need to follow up with your doctor after your ablation procedure. Your doctor will advise you on when to schedule your follow-up visit.

Things to know before you have your ablation procedure

  • It is typically performed under sedation or general anesthesia.
  • Before your procedure, your healthcare team will determine the appropriate sedation for you.
  • The length of the procedure varies from patient to patient.
  • After the procedure, you will go to recovery where you will be monitored by doctors.
  • The doctors will use imaging scans to help them monitor the area of ablation.
  • Your doctor will discuss the results of the procedure with you. If necessary, the doctor will help you determine any further steps to take.
  • Serious complications occur infrequently. These include bleeding and infection.4 Your doctor will discuss your risk for specific complications. 
  • Pain is the complication most commonly experienced by patients undergoing ablation.([FOOTNOTE=Ong SL, Gravante G, Metcalfe MS, Strickland AD, Dennison AR, Lloyd DM. Efficacy and safety of microwave ablation for primary and secondary liver malignancies: a systematic review. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009; 21(6):599.605.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])

Please consult with your doctor for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results and other important medical information about ablation therapy.

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