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YOUR HEALTH: Giving liver tumors a zap

It's a first-in-the-world technique for zapping large liver tumors

CLEVELAND — The best, most reliable treatment for large malignant liver tumors is resection, cutting the tumor and the surrounding liver out of the body. 

Now, the Cleveland Clinic is performing a new microwave ablation technique that is burning away tennis ball-sized tumors.

It's a big difference.

For many patients with large liver tumors, the standard treatment is cutting it out, an option that can be traumatic and take a long time to recover. 

But the newly FDA approved ablation technology is delivering 150-watts of microwave energy with a single needle.

It's a minimally invasive procedure requiring two small incisions in the upper abdomen.

It allows surgeons to use a special camera that lets them look inside the human body.

The camera and laparoscopic ultrasound are used to examine the liver and expose the tumor for microwave ablation.

"Through a very small incision, a couple of millimeters, we introduce our ablation needle under the ultrasound guide," explained Dr.Eren Berber, director of Surgical Liver Tumor Ablation at Cleveland Clinic.

Once the microwave generator is fired up, it delivers immense heat to the needle Dr. Berber uses to burn and destroy the tumor.

Dr. Berber, a world leader in advanced laparoscopic ablation technologies, said this treatment's benefits include better recoveries, less pain, and a quicker return to normal life.

Plus, it can be a critical option for liver patients who have no other option.

Liver resection is can only be performed on people with good liver function, good enough general health to sustain surgery, and a single tumor that has not grown into blood vessels can have this operation. 

But most patients with liver cancer also have cirrhosis.

So depending on the severity of the cirrhosis, there may not be enough liver left behind to properly function following resection.

The microwave ablation technique eliminates that requirement.

"If you burn it with these new technologies, the patients can go home the next day," said Dr. Berber. 

Ultrasound monitoring confirms the entirety of the tumor is treated by the microwave ablation. 

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.