Drs. Belal & Alberico use the latest technologies to diagnose your cancer.

Thermal Ablation for Spinal Tumors

This minimally invasive option is an effective approach to slow or stop spinal tumor growth, relieve pain, strengthen bone and prevent progression of a spinal fracture.

Thermal ablation therapy uses extreme carefully applied heat to destroy — or ablate — cancer cells. When the heat is generated by radio waves, the procedure is called radiofrequency ablation (RFA). This treatment may be recommended for patients with painful bone fractures of the spine due to metastatic disease or for patients whose disease progresses despite radiation treatment.

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Roswell Park has used radiofrequency ablation procedures in the treatment of soft tissue tumors for years. A probe is inserted through the skin and into the tumor, delivering controlled heat to destroy the tumor. Spinal radiofrequency ablation — also called vertebral radiofrequency ablation — is an advanced form of the procedure. The treatment is an out-patient procedure that’s performed by a specially trained neuroradiologist. Multiple spinal areas may be treated in one session.

What to expect with spinal radiofrequency ablation

The procedure is performed under conscious sedation — the kind of anesthesia that’s often used for a colonoscopy. Using x-ray to pinpoint the tumor, special guide needles are inserted through the skin to the abnormal bone. Smaller needles are then passed through the guide needles to take biopsies or to remove bone to prepare for the heating probes. The heating probes are then inserted through the guide needles and carefully controlled heat is applied for up to 15 minutes. The heat kills the tumor in the bone and heats the nerves in the bone, which relieves pain.

The heating probe is replaced with a tiny balloon to re-shape the bone and create a space to be filled with bone cement, a step called balloon kyphoplasty. The balloon is removed, and bone cement is injected into the space. Afterwards, all the needles are removed, and a bandage is placed on the skin. No stitches are required. The procedure takes about an hour and patients usually go home 2 to 3 hours afterwards.

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Why Roswell Park?

We have the most experience. Roswell Park was the first center in the region to offer spinal radiofrequency ablation with our board-certified neuroradiologists.

Ronald Alberico, MD
Ronald Alberico, MD, was the first physician in Western New York trained in the procedure. He has treated more than 1,000 patients with spinal RFA and teaches the technique to physicians across the nation.
Ahmed Belal, MD
Ahmed Belal, MD, was among the early trainees of the procedure and has extensive experience in both kyphoplasty and spinal RFA.