What is Microwave Ablation in Interventional Oncology?

Microwave Ablation in Interventional Oncology

Credit: Endobariatric Endohospital


Microwave ablation (MWA) is a modern alternative to major surgery. It’s a minimally invasive, low-risk, and highly targeted method of removing tumors and diseased tissue, especially in hard-to-reach places like the lungs and liver. 

In this article, we will discuss microwave ablation, its risks and benefits, and why an MWA device might be right for your private medical practice.

What is Interventional Oncology?

Interventional oncology (IO) is a medical subfield at the intersection of two distinct specialities: interventional radiography (IR) and oncology.


In medicine, oncology is the branch that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. There are many types of oncology doctors, from medical oncologists to surgical oncologists.

Interventional Radiography

IR is a field of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of illness without the use of major surgery. Instead, IR doctors operate laparoscopically. 

Laparoscopy combines medical image guidance – like X-ray fluoroscopy, PET scans, CT scans, MRI scans, or ultrasounds – with minimally invasive producers.

Therefore, interventional oncologists diagnose cancers and use Interventional oncology procedures to eliminate tumors. These procedures are done with the help of minimally invasive techniques and performed under medical image guidance.

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Microwave Ablation of Liver Tumors

Microwave ablation is predominantly used in the treatment of neuroendocrine tumours (NET). The procedure can be applied against primary cancer, as well as against secondary cancers that have spread to the liver. 

One or more tumors can be removed in a single ablation session. Moreover, because the method offers such high precision and so little risk, it can be repeated in the event that new tumors appear. In many respects, the technique is similar to radiofrequency ablation liver procedures, but may confer some additional advantages.

Microwave ablation procedures have other applications, too. For instance, microwave ablation lung surgeries are increasingly common, allowing for the safe removal of tumors obstructing a patient’s airways.

What is Microwave Ablation in Interventional Oncology?
Credit: Artur Tumasjan

Patient Use Cases for Microwave Ablation Liver Surgery

Microwave ablation is designed for patients who are not good candidates for traditional surgery. These patients, whose treatment options were previously restricted to chemotherapy, generally fall into one of two categories.

Unresectable Tumors

The first category belongs to patients who are at risk of experiencing complications with traditional surgery. For instance, patients with an unresectable tumor, especially in proximity to a major blood vessel, make excellent candidates for precision ablative surgery.

Tumors of Small Diameter

The second use case belongs to patients who have a tumor with a diameter of 1.5” (~4 cm) or less. Tumors of this size are too small to surgically remove without causing damage to the surrounding, healthy tissue. Instead, microwave ablation allows the tumor to be burned at the site.

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How Does Microwave Ablation Work?

A microwave is an electromagnetic wave with a range between 1 mm and 30 cm, yielding a frequency of between 1 GHz and 300 GHz. This gives microwaves a little more energy than radio waves, but a little less than infrared. Practically speaking, microwaves can produce temperatures exceeding 150°C.

A microwave ablation device works by generating heat via needle-pointed probes. This precise region of heat allows surgeons to attack tissue in a targeted manner, stopping short of blood vessels. This is the great advantage of ablation compared to major surgery: diseased tissue can be killed without inflicting collateral damage.

How Long Does a Liver Ablation Take?

Microwave ablation surgery takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes. This may vary slightly depending on the amount of tumors and/or the difficulty reaching the diseased tissue.

Because the procedure is so minimally invasive, it can be scheduled as a day surgery on an outpatient basis. This is a big improvement over traditional surgeries, which require 2-4 days of post-op hospital care. 

In the event that a general anesthetic is administered, patients may be required to spend up to one night in hospital.

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Microwave Ablation Liver Complications

Liver ablation complications are infrequent. In fact, the success rate of microwave liver ablation is above 85%. Compared to surgery, MWA is less painful, less risky, and requires less recovery time. With MWA, patients can return to their normal routine faster.

Trust RBC Medical for Your Microwave Ablation Devices

Liver ablation procedures are one of the most efficient, effective, fast, and safe alternatives to major surgery. Patients, who previously had no hope of getting surgery, can now receive cancer treatment on an outpatient basis.

If you’re ready to upgrade your surgical practice, trust RBC Medical. With over 25 years of medical device experience, we’ve helped define, design, develop, and manufacture Class I, II, and III medical devices for our many clients. Contact us today to learn more.

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