Real-time spectroscopic assessment of thermal damage: implications for radiofrequency ablation.


Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an evolving technology used to treat unresectable liver tumors. Currently, there is no accurate method to determine RFA margins in real-time during the procedure. We hypothesized that a fiber-optic based spectroscopic monitoring system could detect thermal damage from RFA in real-time. Fluorescence (F) and diffuse reflectance (Rd) spectra were continuously acquired from within the expected ablation zone during canine hepatic RFA using a fiber-optic microinterrogation probe (MIP). The F and Rd spectral feedback were continuously monitored and ablations were stopped based on changes in spectra alone. After each ablation, the MIP tract was marked with India ink and the ablation zone was excised. The relationship of the MIP to the zone of ablation was examined grossly and microscopically. F and Rd spectral changes occurred in three characteristic phases as the ablation zone progresses past the MIP. Phase 1 indicates minimal deviation from normal lives. Phase 2 occurs as the MIP lies within the hemorrhagic zone of the ablated tissue. Phase 3 correlates with complete tissue coagulation. The absolute magnitude of spectral change correlates with the gross and histologic degree of thermal damage. Optical spectroscopy is a technology that allows real-time detection of thermal tissue damage. In this study, both F and Rd spectroscopy accurately defined the advancing hemorrhagic edge of the zone of ablation and the central coagulation zone. These results suggest that F and Rd spectroscopy can be used to create a real-time feedback system to accurately define RFA margins.