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Radiographics. 2008 Mar-Apr;28(2):379-90; discussion 390-2. doi: 10.1148/rg.282075038.

Spectrum of CT findings after radiofrequency ablation of hepatic tumors.

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  • 1Department of Radiology and Center for Imaging Science, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 50 Ilwon-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul 135-710, Korea.


Image-guided radiofrequency (RF) ablation has been used to treat both resectable and nonresectable hepatic tumors. A precise imaging assessment of the therapeutic response and of any complications is mandatory after ablation. Contrast material-enhanced ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging all may be useful for this assessment. At most institutions, a three-phase contrast-enhanced CT examination is performed immediately or within 1 month after RF ablation to assess the technical success of treatment. If ablation was technically successful, three-phase CT may be repeated at 3-month intervals for evaluation of tumor recurrence. The typical CT finding in the zone subjected to RF ablation is an area of low attenuation that encompasses the tumor and an ablative margin. However, the appearance of the ablative zone may vary greatly, depending on the success of treatment and the time elapsed after the procedure. Ringlike enhancement representing benign reactive hyperemia around the ablation zone, central high-attenuation areas representing greater cellular disruption, and tiny air bubbles frequently are seen at immediate follow-up CT but usually have disappeared by the first or second follow-up examination. The successfully ablated zone gradually involutes. The appearance of the zone differs when residual tumor tissue or local tumor progression is present. Immediate or delayed complications also may be seen at follow-up CT. Radiologists must be familiar with both typical and atypical CT findings and their clinical significance. (c) RSNA, 2008.

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