Objectives. To evaluate the efficacy of interstitial saline radiofrequency energy for reproducibly ablating nonmalignant (control) and malignant (the VX-2 tumor) renal tissue in a rabbit model, and to determine the ability of conventional gray-scale and power sonography to image the tumor and ablative process in real time before, during, and after treatment. Methods. The VX-2 tumor was implanted beneath the renal capsule in 18 rabbit kidneys. Twelve days after implantation, 50 W of 500-kHz radiofrequency energy was delivered into the surgically externalized renal tumor and contralateral control kidney for 30 or 45-second treatment intervals using an interstitial saline-augmented radiofrequency probe (the virtual electrode). Localization of the tumor and response to treatment were imaged with gray- scale and power Doppler ultrasonography. The effect of radiofrequency and extent of the destructive process on benign and malignant renal tissue were evaluated histologically. Results. Mean tumor size was 1.3 x 0.7 cm. Both 30 and 45-second treatment intervals provided marked tissue/tumor ablation. Gross anatomic and histologic analysis showed time-dependent ablated lesions averaging 1.4 ± 0.3 x 1.0 ± 0.3 cm (30-second treatment) and 1.8 ± 0.4 x 1.5 ± 0.3 cm (45-second treatment), with clear demarcation of the surrounding parenchyma. Conventional gray-scale sonography allowed visualization of the ablative process, and power Doppler ultrasound demonstrated changes in the vascular pattern of the tumor both before and after ablation. No immediate treatment-related complications were observed. Conclusions. These preliminary studies in a rabbit model demonstrate the feasibility of using the interstitial saline-augmented electrode to ablate small renal tumors and the ability to simultaneously visualize the ablative process using real-time ultrasonography. This technology may have the potential to treat small renal tumors in a minimally invasive manner in the clinical setting.
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