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Spinal Tumor Radiofrequency Ablation

For people in severe pain from cancer that has metastasized to the spine from other locations, we are excited to offer a revolutionary, minimally invasive, pain-relieving procedure using spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation.

Regionally, this procedure is available only at The University of Kansas Hospital, including the hospital’s Indian Creek Campus and The University of Kansas Cancer Center. Our specially trained physicians are among a few in the nation to pioneer this procedure using the STAR™ Tumor Ablation System.

What is spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation?

Spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation uses radio-frequency energy to deliver heat to reduce or destroy spinal tumors. The goal of this treatment is to alleviate the spinal pain associated with metastatic spinal tumors.

Who can have spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation?

Spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation is a palliative care option and helps alleviate the intense pain associated with metastatic spinal tumors. This treatment often eliminates the need for narcotics and greatly improves a person’s quality of life. This procedure is contraindicated for patients with metastases extending into the spinal canal.

How does spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation work?

With spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation, physicians shrink or destroy spinal tumors using a flexible, navigational probe that emits heat generated by radiofrequency energy. When the tumor shrinks, it no longer presses against the nerves which cause pain or push against fractures that may exist as a result of the tumor. Often, patients have the STAR procedure before any other cancer treatments are started to enable them to have a more comfortable radiation, chemotherapy, or surgical treatment experience.

Benefits and risks of spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation

Spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation offers many benefits, including:

  • Rapid back pain relief through a minimally invasive, targeted, outpatient procedure
  • Compatible with an individual’s current cancer treatments
  • Option for people who have reached their cumulative radiation dose limit
  • Potential treatment for radiation therapy-resistant tumors

What happens during spinal tumor radiofrequency ablation?

The spinal radiofrequency ablation procedure is performed in a single treatment, often taking less than 90 minutes.

You’ll receive local anesthesia and conscious sedation before the procedure. A physician uses radiography guidance to place the probe through the incision and into the tumor. The probe is navigated to the center of the tumor and the heat is applied. The heat is controlled precisely by the STAR system for accurate treatment of the tumor without damaging surrounding healthy tissue or bone.

Once the tumor is treated, the space that remains may be filled with medical-grade cement before the probe is removed. The cement helps stabilize the spine and prevent compression fractures around the tumor space.

Within 24 to 48 hours, the procedure allows patients who were wracked with pain and unable to move or walk the ability to move easily and walk without pain again. Studies show sustained pain relief at 6 months following the procedure. With their pain eased, patients can go on to receive uninterrupted chemotherapy or radiation treatment for their primary cancer.

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Clinical trials

Patients treated with the STAR tumor ablation procedure have the opportunity to participate in an observational study clinical trial. You will be evaluated before receiving treatment and periodically following treatment over 3 months. To learn more or enroll, please call 913-588-1227.

Request your appointment today.

To make an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, call 913-588-1227.