Irreversible Electroporation versus Radiofrequency Ablation: A Comparison of Local and Systemic Effects in a Small-Animal Model

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Irreversible electroporation may stimulate more robust inflammatory and systemic reactions (including desired abscopal effects and unwanted tumorigenesis) than radiofrequency ablation in the ablation of normal liver.


To compare both periablational and systemic effects of two mechanistically different types of ablation: thermal radiofrequency (RF) ablation and electroporative ablation with irreversible electroporation (IRE) in appropriately selected animal models.

Materials and Methods

Animal experiments were performed according to a protocol approved by the Animal Care Committee of Hebrew University. Female C57BL/6 mice (n = 165) were randomized to undergo either RF or IRE ablation of noncancerous normal liver. The inflammatory response, cell proliferation, interleukin 6 (IL-6) levels, and intactness of vessels in the liver were assessed at 6, 12, and 24 hours and at 3, 7, and 14 days after ablation (n = 122 for mechanistic experiments). Systemic effects were then assessed by comparing tumor formation in an Mdr2-knockout (KO) mouse model (n = 15) and tumor growth in a remote BNL 1ME hepatoma xenograft tumor (n = 28). Results were averaged and evaluated by using two-tailed t tests.


Although RF ablation was associated with a well-defined periablational inflammatory rim, for IRE, the infiltrate penetrated the ablation zone, largely along persistently patent vessels. Peak IL-6 levels (6 hours after ablation) were 10 and three times higher than at baseline for IRE and RF, respectively (P < .03). Mdr2-KO mice that were treated with IRE ablation had more tumors that were 3 mm or larger than mice treated with RF ablation or sham operation (mean, 3.6 ± 1.3 [standard deviation] vs 2.4 ± 1.1 and 2.2 ± 0.8, respectively; P < .05 for IRE vs both RF ablation and sham operation). For BNL 1ME tumors, both RF and IRE liver ablation reduced tumor growth, with a greater effect noted for IRE (1329 mm3 ± 586 and 819 mm3 ± 327 vs 2241 mm3 ± 548 for sham operation; P < .05) that was accompanied by more infiltrating lymphocytes compared with sham operation (7.6 cells per frame ± 1.9 vs 11.2 ± 2.1 vs 0.3 ± 0.1; P < .05).


Persistent patency of vasculature within the coagulated zone from IRE increases the area and accumulation of infiltrative cells that is associated with a higher serum IL-6 level than RF ablation. These local changes of IRE induce more robust systemic effects, including both tumorigenic and immunogenic effects.

© RSNA, 2016

Online supplemental material is available for this article.


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Article History

Received May 25, 2015; revision requested July 20; revision received September 30; accepted October 27; final version accepted November 2.
Published online: Jan 27 2016
Published in print: Aug 2016