On 25 July 2019, Wumin Chen entered Northern Hospital with a cancerous lesion the size of a large button in his liver. The anxious expression on his wife and son’s face said it all.
Thanks to a minimally-invasive liver microwave ablation procedure performed by Interventional Radiologist, Dr Terry Kok, the tumour was successfully treated and, after an overnight stay, he was well enough to go home.
This was the second such microwave ablation procedure performed at Northern Health using the latest generation Thermosphere microwave ablation technology. The first was performed by Dr David Burrows and Dr Kok, successfully treating another patient with liver cancer the previous month.
“The work we do in Interventional Radiology (IR) is not well publicized, but represents the latest minimally invasive techniques for treating cancer and a wide range of other diseases,” says Dr Kok.
Microwave ablation is part of the armamentarium of techniques available to Interventional Radiologists to treat a variety of malignant tumours in the liver, kidney and lung, particularly in patients not suitable for surgical treatment.
The ablation procedure is performed by the very precise placement of a specialised needle probe in the tumour using imaging-guidance through a ‘pinhole’ incision less than 5 mm wide, explains Dr Kok.
This is followed by delivery of microwave energy to heat up and destroy tumour cells. The actual treatment lasts between 5-10 minutes and is less invasive compared to surgery with quicker recovery for the patient, generally only involving an overnight hospital stay.
Whilst ablation technology is now available in most tertiary centres, previously, Northern Health patients would have had to be referred elsewhere in order to have this treatment.
“Our patients are getting the best possible treatment right at their doorstep,” Dr Kok adds.
Access to microwave ablation treatment is part of the expanding Interventional Oncology (IO) service for cancer patients at Northern Health, in addition to the recently introduced chemoembolisation (TACE) procedure for treating liver tumours. The successful delivery of these treatments are supported by collaborative multidisciplinary teamwork with nursing and radiography staff, as well as specialist colleagues in Hepatobiliary (HPB) Surgery, Oncology, Gastroenterology/Hepatology and Anaesthetics.
Dr Lachie Hayes, Medical Divisional Director of Cancer Services, congratulates Dr Kok and the team involved in driving this initiative and providing this innovative option to cancer patients in Melbourne’s north.
“This is a great example of clinicians working together to provide care that is not only safe and effective, but also a better patient experience,” Dr Hayes says.