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Thermal Ablation

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Interventional radiologists use ablative technologies to treat a tumor through small incision in the skin. Thermal ablation involves controlled heating or cooling to destroy cancer cells and tissue of a known volume leaving behind a scar. This is performed using image guidance with CT or US.

Thermal Ablation: How does it work?

The goal of heat-based therapy is to destroy the entire tumor with a margin of at least 5 mm using heat to kill the malignant cells without damaging adjacent vital structures. To accomplish this, the tissue must be heated to temperatures between 60-100°C to break down the proteins in the cells, a process known as coagulative necrosis. There are many ways to create this thermal energy.

For radiofrequency ablation, radio waves generated by alternating current travel from the non insulated tip of the probe to the grounding pad resulting in resistive forces that generate heat. This technology has been studied and employed extensively and has been shown to be safe and effective. Limitations occur in heat conduction when adjacent to large vessels, which rapidly cool the lesion causing a heat sink effect. In less than 1% of cases there has been evidence of seeding along the ablation tract. This has been addressed with new technology to burn the tract as the needle is withdrawn.

For microwave ablation, the probe functions as an antennae generating heat by friction as polar (water) molecules attempt to align with the electromagnetic field. There is no charring around the tip of the probe or need for a grounding pad. While there is less experience with this technology, initial work has shown that microwave ablation generates higher temperatures, treating large tumor volumes, in less time, and is less susceptible to heat sink.

For cryoablation, by freezing and thawing and refreezing the tumor cells the cell membrane ruptures causing cell death. This is accomplished by allowing the expansion of argon gas from high to low pressure through a narrow port which cools the gas to temperatures as low as -1608°C. This forms an “ice ball” around the probe that can be seen on imaging allowing active monitoring and control of the ablation zone as it approaches critical structures. Helium gas is then use to warm the probe to remove it. There is no need for grounding pads and larger volumes may be ablated with multiple probes.

  • Bone cancer
  • Treat painful metastases that do not response to radiation or surgical care for palliation of pain

  • Kidney or renal cancer
  • Treat renal carcinoma in patients who cannot or do not wish to undergo resection

  • Liver cancer
  • Treat primary hepatocellular carcinoma as bridge to liver transplant.
    Treat primary hepatocellular carcinoma in patients who are not candidates for surgical resection.
    Treat patients with oligometastatic disease to the liver from other primary malignancies.

  • Lung cancer
  • Treat primary lung carcinoma in patients who are not candidates for surgical resection.
    Treat patients with oligometastatic disease to the lung from other primary malignancies.

The interventional radiology experts at the University of Miami Health System use imaging technology to perform this procedure and ensure only cancerous tissue is harmed, while keeping healthy tissue intact.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Multidisciplinary approach. Cancer treatment at the University of Miami Health System has evolved to emphasize individualized care provided in a coordinated effort by multiple specialties. This includes oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists and interventional radiologists. Interventional radiologists treat cancer from a loco-regional approach focusing on a specific organ or target lesion using minimally invasive intra-arterial or percutaneous techniques.

Expert care from highly trained interventional radiologists. Our interventional radiologists and radiology specialists are experts in a variety of minimally invasive procedures — everything from treatments to clear blocked blood vessels to advanced cancer therapies like NanoKnife®.

Leading-edge imaging care in South Florida. Our doctors are also researchers discovering new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment. That means you can get some of today’s most promising advancements through clinical trials. You benefit from the latest developments that are fast-tracked from the lab to the bedside.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

What to Expect


Consultation begins in our clinic staffed by our team of fellowship trained interventional radiologists to tailor care to the patient offering the most effective therapy. At our institution ablations are performed with general anesthesia, which requires medical clearance. The procedure is performed with imaging guidance (CT and or US.) The recovery time begins with admission into the hospital for at least 23 hours. Follow up is conducted in 3-4 weeks time to discuss imaging results in clinic.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.

  • Aetna WC
  • Aetna Affiliates/Signature Adm (ASA)
  • Aetna Behavioral Health
  • Aetna Elect Choice (EPO)
  • Aetna Florida Healthy Kids
  • Aetna HMO
  • Aetna Medicaid HMO
  • Aetna Medicare HMO
  • Aetna Medicare PPO
  • Aetna POS
  • Aetna PPO
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 1
  • Aetna UM Employee HMO 2
  • Aetna UM Employee POS HRA
  • Aetna/Coventry Institutes of Excellence (IOE)
  • Amerigroup Florida Healthy Kids
  • Amerigroup Medicaid HMO
  • Argus Vision
  • AvMed Choice
  • AvMed HMO/POS
  • AvMed MDC and JHS Groups
  • AvMed Medicare HMO
  • AXIS
  • BCBS Blue Options Network Blue PPO
  • BCBS BlueCare HealthOptions HMO
  • BCBS BlueChoice PPC/PPO
  • BCBS Miami Dade Blue PPO Limited Benefits Plan
  • BCBS of Florida (All products except "SELECT" Plans)
  • BCBS of Florida (Commercial plans exclude HIX Select)
  • BCBS Traditional PHS/PPO
  • Beacon Health (ValueOption)
  • Beech Street PPO
  • Broward Health Medical Center
  • CarePlus Medicare HMO
  • Catholic Hospice
  • CCP/CMS Title XIX (Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/CMS Title XXI (Non Medicaid Enrolled in South Florida)
  • CCP/MMA (Broward County residents)
  • Charlotte County Sheriffs Office PPO
  • Cigna Affiliates
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Cigna Dental HMO/PPO
  • Cigna EPO
  • Cigna HMO
  • Cigna Life Source (Intracorp is part of Cigna Lifesource)
  • Cigna MDCPS Jackson Sr. High
  • Cigna POS
  • Cigna PPO
  • Cigna Shared Administration
  • Clear Health Alliance SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Concordia Behavioral Health
  • CorVel WC
  • Coventry First Health WC
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) HMO/POS
  • Coventry Health Care of Florida (HIP) PPO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) HMO
  • Coventry Health Plan of Florida (Foundation) POS
  • Coventry National PPO
  • Coventry Summit Medicare HMO
  • Coventry Vista Medicare HMO
  • Coventry First Health PPO
  • Delta Dental PPO
  • DentaQuest (ADI)
  • DIKLA
  • Dimension WC
  • Dimension Plus PPO
  • Doctor's Healthcare Plan
  • EHN PPO
  • EQUIAN (Health Systems International)
  • Europe Assistance/Global Corporate Solutions (Care Management Network)
  • eyeQuest
  • FCCI WC
  • Florida Community Care (FCC)
  • Florida Healthcare Plan (Affiliate of BCBSFL)
  • Florida PACE (FPC)
  • Freedom Health Medicaid HMO
  • Freedom Health Medicare HMO
  • Gallagher Bassett WC (MDCPS & FCSRMC)
  • Global Excel Mgt PPO
  • Great West (Cigna) HMO/POS
  • Guardian Life PPO
  • HAA Preferred Partners
  • Health First Health HMO/POS
  • Health First Health Medicare HMO
  • Health First Health PPO
  • Health Net Veterans Choice HMO
  • Heritage Summit Healthcare WC
  • Humana Behavioral Health (LifeSynch)
  • Humana Dental/CompBenefits/OHS
  • Humana EPO
  • Humana HMO
  • Humana Medicaid HMO
  • Humana Medicare HMO
  • Humana National Transplant
  • Humana PPO
  • Humana Premier
  • iCare Health Solutions
  • Interlink Health Services
  • International Kids Fund (IKF)
  • League Medical Concepts Federal Inmates
  • Life Trac
  • Magellan Behavioral Health
  • Magellan Complete Care SNP Medicaid HMO
  • MDAbroad
  • Medica Medicare HMO
  • Medical Development In't (MDI)-Federal Inmates
  • Medicus
  • Metlife Dental PPO
  • MHNet Behavioral Network (MHNet)
  • Molina
  • Molina Market Place
  • Molina Medicaid HMO
  • Molina Medicare HMO
  • Morgan White International
  • MultiPlan PPO
  • Naphcare (Federal Prisoners)
  • National Healthcare Solutions Inc.
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan HMO/POS
  • Neighborhood HealthPlan PPO
  • North Broward Hospital District PPO
  • Olympus Managed Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicaid HMO
  • Positive Healthcare SNP Medicare HMO
  • Prestige Health Choice Medicaid HMO
  • Prime Health Services WC
  • Quality Health Management
  • Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses PPO
  • Rockport Healthcare Group WC
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises PPO
  • Sanus Health Corporation
  • Seasons Hospice
  • Simply Healthcare Medicaid HMO
  • Solstice Dental HMO/PPO
  • Start Healthcare Network
  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine AMBETTER
  • Sunshine Healthy Kids HMO
  • Sunshine Medicaid HMO
  • Sunshine Medicare HMO
  • Tricare South Prime HMO
  • Tricare South Standard PPO
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • UnitedHealthcare Affiliates
  • UnitedHealthcare Healthy Kids HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare HMO/POS
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicaid HMO
  • UnitedHealthcare Medicare Nursing Home Plan
  • UnitedHealthcare PPO
  • University of Miami Athletic Dept PPO
  • VUMI
  • Wellcare/Staywell Healthy Kids HMO
  • Wellcare/Staywell Medicaid HMO
  • Wexford Health State Inmates
  • Worldwide Managed Care