Image-Guided Percutaneous Thermal Ablation for the Palliative Treatment of Chest Wall Masses

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To evaluate the palliative benefits of image-guided thermal ablation for the treatment of painful tumors affecting the chest wall.


Thirty-nine patients, median age 65 years, underwent percutaneous thermal ablation of 44 chest wall masses. Thirty-eight radiofrequency ablations (RFAs), 3 microwave ablations (MWAs), and 3 cryoablations were performed. Subjective pain reports at 1 week and 1 month postablation were scored from 0 to 4 based on a standard Likert pain relief scale, with 2 or higher representing clinically significant pain relief.


Patients were followed for a median of 6 months. Overall, 31 of 44 procedures (70.5%) resulted in significant pain relief. Improvement followed 15 of 15 (100%) of ablations that were performed within 90 days of treatment with palliative external-beam radiation therapy (XRT), compared with 16 of 29 (55.2%) of the remaining procedures. Mean pain relief score at 1 month was 3.86 for the 15 combined procedures versus 1.96 for the 29 remaining procedures (P < 0.001). Local pain recurred after 5 of 31 positive responses (16.1%). Median survival was 11.2 ± 2.3 months for patients with significant pain relief and 4.3 ± 1.4 months for nonresponders (P < 0.001). Adverse events included a transient symptom “flare” (n = 5, 11.4%) and the exacerbation of a preexisting brachial plexopathy.


Thermal ablation results in significant pain relief for the majority of patients and shows evidence of synergistic benefit when temporally combined with XRT. This minimally invasive technique appears to be a safe and durable alternative for the palliation of chest wall masses.

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