A study published in the British Journal of Urology reported the experience of one hospital with microwave ablation for suspected renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Microwave ablation is the use of extreme hot or cold (thermal ablation) to treat cancer. It uses electromagnetic waves through the skin to produce tissue-heating effects.

One hundred and thirteen patients with renal masses were included in the study. The median size of the masses was 25 mm, of which 95% had a renal mass biopsy and there was cancer in 75% of patients. The microwave ablation lasted a median of 6 minutes, and 95% of patients stayed in hospital for 1 day. Patients were followed for 12 months with minimal decline in renal function (-4%). One patient had local recurrence and was treated with re-ablation and two patients developed metastases. Two patients had indeterminate findings on follow-up and continued under surveillance.

In summary, this was the largest group of patients undergoing microwave ablation to be studied. Microwave ablation was well tolerated, with 95% of patients discharged the following day and low complication/readmission rates. Follow-up after the procedure shows favourable control of the disease. Microwave ablation appears to be safe and effective and should be considered for the future treatment of low stage T1a/small T1b renal masses.

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