What Are the Side Effects of Radiofrequency Ablation?

Discomfort, especially swelling and bruising, at the treatment site is the main side effect of radiofrequency ablation, according to WebMD. This discomfort normally goes away after a few days.

Electrical burns may also occur due to the electrical current moved through the device during radiofrequency ablation, notes MedCentral Health System. Nerves and blood vessels near the injection site may be damaged, but these complications are generally minor. Serious side effects and major complications do not happen very often. Patients with heart disease, poorly controlled diabetes or an infection should consider other alternatives or postpone the procedure. Someone on blood-thinning medication should not undergo radiofrequency ablation.

Possible complications from this procedure include an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used during radiofrequency ablation, says Cedars-Sinai. Numbness may occur at the treatment site when a local anesthetic is applied to surrounding tissue. Infections can also occur if the skin surrounding the area is not sanitized thoroughly. Doctors suggest using antibacterial soap in the shower the morning before the procedure to minimize the risk of infection.

More severe, but much less common, complications and side effects include injuries to the diaphragm, gastrointestinal tract, gall bladder and bile ducts, according to Seminars in Interventional Radiology. These side effects occur during the treatment of lesions or abnormal tissue growths within digestive organs. Doctors should closely monitor the distance between the electrode and the wall of vital organs to prevent serious side effects.