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Radiographics. 2012 Jul-Aug;32(4):947-69. doi: 10.1148/rg.324105181.

Radiofrequency ablation of lung tumors: imaging features of the postablation zone.

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Division of Thoracic Imaging and Intervention, Department of Radiological Sciences, UCLA Medical Center, 757 Westwood Plaza, Suite 1621, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is used to treat pulmonary malignancies. Although preliminary results are suggestive of a survival benefit, local progression rates are appreciable. Because a patient can undergo repeat treatment if recurrence is detected early, reliable post-RFA imaging follow-up is critical. The purpose of this article is to describe (a) an algorithm for post-RFA imaging surveillance; (b) the computed tomographic (CT) appearance, size, enhancement, and positron emission tomographic (PET) metabolic activity of the ablation zone; and (c) CT, PET, and dual-modality imaging with PET and CT (PET/CT) features suggestive of partial ablation or tumor recurrence and progression. CT is routinely used for post-RFA follow-up. PET and PET/CT have emerged as auxiliary follow-up techniques. CT with nodule densitometry may be used to supplement standard CT. Post-RFA follow-up was divided into three phases: early (immediately after to 1 week after RFA), intermediate (>1 week to 2 months), and late (>2 months). CT and PET imaging features suggestive of residual or recurrent disease include (a) increasing contrast material uptake in the ablation zone (>180 seconds on dynamic images), nodular enhancement measuring more than 10 mm, any central enhancement greater than 15 HU, and enhancement greater than baseline anytime after ablation; (b) growth of the RFA zone after 3 months (compared with baseline) and definitely after 6 months, peripheral nodular growth and change from ground-glass opacity to solid opacity, regional or distant lymph node enlargement, and new intrathoracic or extrathoracic disease; and

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