Radiofrequency Ablation

What is radiofrequency ablation (RFA)?

Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure in which a radiologist inserts probes into lesions, usually tumors of the bone, to heat and destroy the tissue in that region.

About this Treatment

About this Treatment

How do we perform an RFA?

Using a CT scan for guidance, a radiologist places a special hollow needle into the area of bone that requires treatment. Sometimes the doctor first biopsies the bone: a small piece is removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Next, the doctor threads a tiny heating probe through the middle of the special needle. The probe is insulated, except for at its tip. A machine attached to the probe transmits heat to the tip, and the heated tip is used to destroy the tumor or lesion. The tumor or lesion is not removed; over time it will be replaced with scar tissue.

Will my child be awake for the procedure?

No. Your child will be given either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia.

How long will the procedure take?

One to two hours.

Will my child have pain during or after the procedure?

Your child will be asleep and not feel pain during the procedure and most children immediately feel less pain after the procedure. If the needle-insertion site hurts, you may give your child over-the-counter pain medication.

What are the risks of RFA?

The procedure is considered low-risk. However, potential complications include:

  • Blood vessel or nerve damage
  • Bone fracture (rare)
  • Infection
  • Incomplete treatment; recurrence of lesion

Pre and Post Operative Care

Pre and Post Operative Care

How do my child and I prepare for the procedure?

We encourage good communication between you and your child, including the necessity and overview of the procedure as well as ensuring them that you are close by the whole time.  Holding them or their hands until they leave for the procedure is a great way to provide support.

You will be given specific instructions along the way but you may need to arrive a few hours before the scheduled procedure to have some blood tests done. When you arrive at the hospital, a doctor will review the procedure and associated risks, after which you will sign a consent form. When we are ready to get started with the procedure, a nurse will place an intravenous line to deliver sedating medications and you will be allowed to accompany your child in the operating room until they are asleep, after which you will be escorted to a waiting room.

When will my child be able to go home after the procedure?

Your child will be able to go home on the same day. We will bring your child to the recovery area after the procedure. Once your child is awake and able to keep liquids down, you will be able to take him or her home.

When can I remove the bandage?

Leave the bandage on for 24 hours. Then you may remove the clear bandage and gauze; do not remove the Steri-Strips® (white strips). If they haven’t fallen off after seven days, you may remove them.

When can my child bathe?

Keep the site completely dry for the first 24 hours. After 24 hours, your child may have a sponge bath or shower, but continue to keep the area dry. (Keep water from the shower from falling directly on the entrance site.) Do not submerge the site in water (bath or pool) until the Steri-Strips have fallen off.

Are there any activity restrictions?

Your child can resume most activities the day after the procedure. Sometimes weight-bearing activities such as heavy lifting must be restricted. Please ask the doctor or other member of the Interventional Radiology team about returning to sports or strenuous activity, as this may depend on the area that was treated.


•     Redness, pain, swelling, or bruising at the needle insertion site.

•     Fever higher than 101o Fahrenheit or 38o Celsius.

The department of Interventional Radiology can be reached at: 202-476-3791, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

At all other times please call 202-259-8643, which is the on-call pager. Follow the instructions and wait for a call back.

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