Kidney Cancer Ablation Techniques for Early Cancers

Many patients with early kidney cancer are eligible for minimally invasive procedures to destroy tumors. These treatments minimize side effects, pain and recovery time and can provide an excellent chance to achieve a cure while preserving kidney function. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin form one of the busiest centers in the Midwest for kidney cancer ablation.

Cryoablation to Preserve Kidney Function

Percutaneous Cryoablation

During this outpatient procedure, special instruments are used to destroy kidney tumors using cold energy. After an area of the patient’s skin has been numbed, physicians use CT and ultrasound imaging to position a thin needle probe within the kidney tumor. The tip of the probe is then super-cooled, engulfing the tumor (along with a margin of healthy tissue) in a ball of ice. The dimensions of the ice ball are easily monitored using CT imaging, and freeze-thaw cycles effectively kill the tumor cells.

Percutaneous cryoablation is for patients with kidney tumors smaller than 3 centimeters and other patients who are not good candidates for surgery because of age or health problems. Most patients who undergo percutaneous cryoablation go home the same day and are able to perform regular activities within a couple of days.

At Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, percutaneous cryoablation is performed jointly by a urologic surgeon and an interventional radiologist. The urologic surgeon provides in-depth understanding of kidney malignancies, and the IR specialist supplies imaging expertise and minimally invasive therapy options. 

Laparoscopic Cryoablation

For many patients, kidney tumor cryoablation is performed using laparoscopic techniques. A cryoablation probe mounted on a catheter is introduced into the body through a small incision. The probe is then guided to the tumor using imaging technology. 

Open Cryoablation

Because of the characteristics of their tumor, some patients undergo cryotherapy as part of a traditional “open” surgical procedure. A surgeon accesses the kidney through a traditional surgical incision and applies the cryoablation probes directly to the cancer site.


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Clinical Cancer Center, Froedtert Hospital 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

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