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Ablative Liver Cancer Services

The skilled hepatobiliary surgeons with the UC Irvine Health Ablative Oncology Center are experienced in a variety of ablative procedures to treat patients with liver cancer. These include radiofrequency ablation and cryosurgery.

What is radiofrequency liver ablation?

Radiofrequency liver ablation (RFA) is a technique involving probes that destroy liver tumors with heat. The probes, which are extremely thin needles, are precisely guided into the tumor with the aid of ultrasound imaging or a CT scanner. Once placed in the tumor, the needles are heated with an electrical current that destroys malignant cells. This procedure can be done percutaneously — through the skin — as well as laparoscopically through a small incision or with standard open surgery.


RFA treatment is an option for liver cancer patients with nonresectable tumors of less than 6 centimeters. It has relatively few side effects and patients are usually able to go home within 24 hours.

What is cryosurgery?

Cryosurgery destroys malignant cells by exposing them to extreme cold and
may be used in combination with other standard treatments for liver cancer. The procedure involves inserting a probe into the tumor, guided by ultrasound
to determine proper placement. Thermal sensors also are inserted to monitor effect of the ice ball of liquid nitrogen pumped into the tumor. Cryosurgery can
be performed percutaneously or laparoscopically. It may be an option for patients with inoperable tumors.

Ablative Oncology Center specialists use the most advanced and least invasive technologies and methods to treat cancer. As one of the first multidisciplinary ablative oncology centers in the nation — and the only one in Orange County — the center offers patients leading-edge therapies delivered by highly skilled teams of surgeons, nurses, technicians and other medical professionals at UC Irvine Medical Center. Because these physicians are actively engaged in ongoing research at Orange County's only university medical center, patients also have access to innovative treatments through clinical trials before they are available to the general public. Learn more about
clinical trials ›

For more information or to make an appointment with an ablative hepatobiliary specialist, please call 1-888-717-GIMD (1-888-717-4463).

Clinical Team

Dr. David K. Imagawa David K. Imagawa, MD, PhD
Gastrointestinal surgeon

Dr. Imagawa is a leading experts in treating liver cancer. Affiliated with UC Irvine's nationally recognized Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center, Imagawa is skilled at performing ablative surgical procedures as well as minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic procedures. His current clinical interests include extending robot-assisted surgical techniques to liver and pancreas surgery.

Imagawa's research has been published in numerous scientific journals and his interests include pancreatic cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, bile duct cancer and islet cell transplantation. In addition, Imagawa is a two-time John E. Connolly Award recipient, which is presented annually by the surgery residents to an outstanding professor of surgery.

Learn more about Dr. Imagawa ›