YOUR HEALTH: Microwave technology to save your kidney

When most of us think of microwaves we think of leftovers. But doctors say there’s a new treatment using microwave heat to save lives.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Ryan Anguiano got the scare of his life when he went to the doctor with what he thought was colitis.

"He saw something on my kidney. and, more than likely, 60% chance that it was gonna be cancer.   And, he needed to take part of my kidney, or my whole kidney out."

He remembers the day when his wife stepped in.

"My wife says we should probably seek a second opinion before we move forward with this."

That second opinion saved Ryan's kidney.

"I can perform the ablation and after we're done I can tell the patient the tumor is gone," said Dr, Justin Muhlenberg, an Interventional Radiologist at Baptist M & S Imaging.

How does ablation work?

"It's a needle or a probe that you can insert into a tumor," explained Dr. Muhlenberg.  "And you can turn the probe on and it delivers enough heat causing destruction of tissue around the tip of the probe."

CT scans and ultrasound imaging help guide the probe, which uses microwave energy to heat the tumor, destroying it.
Saline solution keeps it cool.

"We can slowly guide the needle directly into the tumor, as we turn on the microwave generator, we see that slowly the tissue gets destroyed," said Dr. Muhlenberg.

"What's going to be left there at the end of the process is just a scar."

That was a sweet post-op surprise for Ryan.

"I was sitting there thinking I was all bandaged up and I rolled over and asked, 'How bad is it?'"

"My wife said, 'you have a Band-Aid. It looks like a paper cut!'."

It's the only visible sign of Ryan's battle with a kidney tumor.

MICROWAVE ABLATION:   Microwave ablation is a fairly new procedure that was introduced in the last 20 years.   The procedure allows surgeons  to destroy the tumor and not the normal healthy tissue around it.   Surgeons can now remove cancers in the lung and are continuing to find other ways to help patients.

Ryan was fortunate, his tumor was benign.

He's back to feeling like his old self and looking forward to walking his daughters down the aisle with both kidneys intact.

Dr. Muhlenberg says with new improvements to the technology, interventional radiologists are able to treat larger zones and destroy more abnormal tissue.

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.