Radiology (Xray)

Radiofrequency Ablation of Lung Tumours

Contact X-ray Appointments Freeman Hospital: (0191) 223 1012

What is radiofrequency ablation of lung tumours?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • In radiofrequency ablation, CT (computed tomography) is used to help guide a needle electrode into a cancerous tumor. High-frequency electrical currents are then passed through the electrode, creating heat that destroys the abnormal cells.

Why do I need radiofrequency ablation?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat early-stage lung cancer and cancers that have spread into the lung from other areas of the body. Radiofrequency ablation may be a treatment option if you wish to avoid conventional surgery or your lung function is not good enough to undergo surgery.  Radiofrequency ablation is not intended to replace surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy in all patients. It may be effective when used alone or in conjunction with these treatments.

Who has made this decision?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Your doctors will have discussed the possible treatment options with the radiologist (x-ray doctor) responsible for performing these procedures.  There will be an opportunity for you to discuss the treatment, and be involved in making the decisions with your doctors and with the radiologist. Please mention any allergies or other conditions you have. You will only be asked to sign a consent form after you have fully considered all the advice given. If you do not want to undergo this treatment, then the procedure will be taken no further.

Who performs the radiofrequency ablation?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • The examination will be performed by a radiologist (medical doctor who specialises in interpreting diagnostic imaging).  The radiologist will explain what happens and will show you what to do.

What preparation will I need?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • You will be assessed in a clinic before your overnight admission and then admitted to hospital on the day of your treatment.
  • Most procedures will be performed with sedation.
  • Occasionally a general anaesthetic may be required, in which case you will be told when to stop eating and drinking.
  • A small plastic cannula will be inserted into your arm to enable us to inject pain relief.
  • You will be asked to wear a hospital gown and will be taken to the X-ray department.

What happens during the radiofrequency ablation and how is it performed?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • You will be asked to lie on the CT scanner table; your position will depend on the site of the tumour.
  • Monitoring equipment will be attached to you and oxygen given if required. 
  • You will be given an injection to help with pain relief and also help you feel more relaxed but you will be awake for the procedure. If you are in pain we can give you additional medication.
  • A CT scan will be performed to locate the tumour and your skin marked to localise the site. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic and local anaesthetic (see below) will be injected into the skin.
  • Using CT image guidance the radiologist will insert the needle through the skin to the site of the tumour. Once the needle is in the correct place radiofrequency energy is applied.
  • At the end of the procedure the needle is removed. The procedure may need to be repeated if the tumour is large or there is more than one tumour.

Local anaesthetic:Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Your radiologist will ask you to keep quite still while the injections are given.
  • You may notice a warm tingling feeling as the anaesthetic begins to take effect.
  • Your procedure will only go ahead when you and your radiologist are sure that the area is numb.
  • Your radiologist is always near to you and you can speak to him/her whenever you want to.

What happens afterwards?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • On your return to the ward, you will stay in bed and the nurses will monitor you regularly for several hours.
  • You will then be able to gently move around the ward. You will stay in hospital overnight following the treatment.
  • If you have any new problems with your breathing once you have been discharged from hospital, please contact the hospital ward through the Newcastle Hospitals Switchboard (telephone: (0191) 2336161 24 hours).
  • You will be advised by your Doctor when you will be seen in clinic and a CT scan will be arranged a few months after your treatment.

How long will the radiofrequency ablation take?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • The length of time for the treatment will depend on the tumour but will be at least one hour.

How does it feel?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • There may be some discomfort during injection of the local anaesthetic but following this you should feel very little apart from some pushing. Pain relief will be given through the tube in your arm if required. Please let the Radiologist or nurse know if you feel any pain.

What are the benefits of having radiofrequency ablation?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • RFA is used to treat tumours in the lung and can be effective when used alone or in conjunction with other treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

What are the risks of having radiofrequency ablation? Are there any after effects?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • The most common complication is a pneumothorax, a punctured lung, where the lung collapses away from the chest wall.  This occurs in about one third (30%) of patients. If there is a large amount of air collapsing the lung, a tube may be inserted to drain this air, only one in ten patients will need to have this performed.
  • There is often a very small amount of bleeding but very rarely significant bleeding needing blood transfusion or a small operation to block the bleeding artery.
  • The medication given for pain relief can occasionally cause you to feel sick or very drowsy. There will be a nurse or doctor monitoring you at all times and the effects of the medication can be reversed if necessary.

When will I get the results?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • A report from this procedure will be sent to the consultant who asked for it to be done within two weeks of your examination.  On receipt of this report your referring consultant may write to you or invite you back to discuss.

I need an ambulance/ transport. Do you arrange it?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • If you need an ambulance/ transport, you should ask your GP Surgery to arrange it. You will need to give them three working days’ notice.  Please note that hospital transport is provided on medical need only.

What if I cannot attend for my appointment?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • If your appointment time is not convenient please contact the hospital department so that a more appropriate time can be arranged.  This will enable us to reallocate valuable scanning time to someone else:
  • Freeman X-ray Appointments     0191 223 1012 (Monday to Friday 8.30am-5.00pm)

What if I have any comments, suggestions or complaints?Show [+]Hide [-]

  • Should you have any suggestions or concerns, please make these known to the person conducting your examination or by letter addressed to the hospital that you are attending your examination:
  • The Departmental Manager, X-ray Department, Level 3, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP
  • The Departmental Manager, Main X-ray Department, Freeman Hospital, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE7 7DN
  • Tel: 0191 282 1099
  • Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.00pm
  • All Newcastle Hospitals: Switchboard tel: 0191 233 6161 (24 hours)
  • The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can offer on-the-spot advice and information about the NHS. You can contact them on freephone 0800 032 02 02 or email
  • Information produced by Dr M Muller,  Consultant Radiologist.                                                                

Diagnostic Imaging DatasetShow [+]Hide [-]

Information from your diagnostic test will contribute to the Diagnostic Imaging Dataset. 

  • The Diagnostic Imaging Dataset (DID) is a database that holds information on the imaging tests and scans carried out on NHS patients. This will allow the Health and Social Care Information Centre to see how different tests are used across the country.
  • Nothing will ever be reported that identifies you.  All information is stored securely. It is only made available to appropriate staff, and is kept strictly confidential. However, if you do not want your information to be stored in the DID, please tell the people who are treating you. They will make sure your information is not copied into the DID.
  • You may, at a later date, still decide to opt out.  Please contact the Health and Social Care Information Centre directly, their contact details are:
  • Telephone: 0845 300 6016 
  • Email: 
  • Website:
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