Microwaving Away Pain

Bone and soft tissue pain relieved with microwave ablation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Cancer that either starts in or spreads to the bone can be extremely painful. So can cancers that begin in the muscles or other soft tissue of the body. A relatively new treatment method may bring much needed relief.

A small French study found that using a method called microwave ablation (MWA) was able to significantly reduce pain in patients with bone and soft tissue tumors.

This procedure used microwave energy to dissolve the tumors.

"Ask for ways to relieve your pain."

Adrian Kastler, MD, a resident in Interventional Pain Management at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, a university hospital in Besançon, France, led the small study involving 13 patients.

"This technique may be applied to any patient suffering from bone tumor pain, mainly in patients suffering from bone metastases, refractory [unresponsive] to conventional therapies," Dr. Kastler said in a press release announcing the study results.

Bone and soft tissue tumor pain management can be difficult. A method that uses radio waves and is known as radio frequency ablation is currently used to treat this pain, as is radiation therapy.

Microwave ablation has been used to treat adrenal gland, kidney, liver and thyroid tumors, but is untested in bone and soft tissue cancers.

Dr. Kastler and colleagues tested MWA on 20 different lesions, most of which had metastasized (spread) to other locations. The majority (15) of the bone tumors had caused damage to the bone.

Prior to the procedure, patients reported a mean pain score of 7.29 out of a possible 10.

The procedure, performed under local anesthesia, involves inserting small probes through the skin and into the tumor. A CT scan was used to guide the probes.

Patients said they felt immediate relief – with pain being reduced by at least 50 percent or more. The relief lasted for about 4.5 months.

"Our research showed that the use of MWA in bone and soft tissue tumors is feasible and effective concerning pain palliation," Dr. Kastler said.

“The main advantage of ablation techniques is the fast pain relief obtained – immediately after the procedure – as opposed to delayed pain relief obtained with radiation therapy."

Results from this study were reported at the 29th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 11, 2013
Last Updated:
April 15, 2014