Major complications after radio-frequency thermal ablation of hepatic tumors: spectrum of imaging findings

Radiographics. 2003 Jan-Feb;23(1):123-34; discussion 134-6. doi: 10.1148/rg.231025054.


Although radio-frequency (RF) ablation has been accepted as a promising and safe technique for treatment of unresectable hepatic tumors, investigation of its complications has been limited. According to the multicenter (1,139 patients in 11 institutions) survey data of the Korean Study Group of Radiofrequency Ablation, a spectrum of complications occurred after RF ablation of hepatic tumors. The prevalence of major complications was 2.43%. The most common complications were hepatic abscess (0.66%), peritoneal hemorrhage (0.46%), biloma (0.20%), ground pad burn (0.20%), pneumothorax (0.20%), and vasovagal reflex (0.13%). Other complications were biliary stricture, diaphragmatic injury, gastric ulcer, hemothorax, hepatic failure, hepatic infarction, renal infarction, sepsis, and transient ischemic attack. One procedure-related death (0.09%) occurred (due to peritoneal hemorrhage). Three important strategies for decreasing the rate of complications are prevention, early detection, and proper management. A physician who performs RF ablation of hepatic malignancies should be aware of the broad spectrum of major complications so that these strategies can be used.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Burns / epidemiology
  • Catheter Ablation / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Abscess / epidemiology
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumothorax / epidemiology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / epidemiology