Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering are now making it easier, faster and safer for doctors to use an emerging procedure – one that involves burning away tumors in more patients, including those with brain tumors.
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical energy to destroy cancer cells with heat. A needle-thin probe delivers radiofrequency waves directly to the tumor, cooking the tissue up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) until it’s destroyed.
Together with Mahta Moghaddam, director of the Microwave Systems, Sensors, and Imaging Lab, or MiXIL, and holder of the William M. Hogue Professorship in Electrical Engineering at USC, John Stang has developed a real-time thermal imaging method and device that will help doctors deliver fast, safe and precise thermal ablation treatments for a variety of ailments ranging from tumors to epilepsy. Stang is a research assistant professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, who co-authored the study published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
During the procedure, microwave signals are continuously transmitted and received into the treatment area. From these signals and information from a prior imaging study—like an MRI— Moghaddam and Stang produce a 3D thermal image of the region in real-time, giving doctors a quantitative temperature map of the region they’re operating on.
The resolution of their thermal image is not as high as that of MRI. But Stang sees a world in which this real-time thermal image feed can be overlaid on a high-resolution MRI, enabling doctors to precisely deliver the right dose to the right location without the need for follow-up imaging studies.
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