Essentia doctor freezes off kidney tumor as alternative to surgeryFARGO – Don Huso experienced a stabbing pain in his left side bad enough for him to drive 95 miles to an emergency room here for treatment.
By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM
FARGO – Don Huso experienced a stabbing pain in his left side bad enough for him to drive 95 miles to an emergency room here for treatment.
A scan quickly revealed the culprit to be kidney stones. Painkillers provided quick relief, and the stones soon passed.
But a month later, a flare-up sent Huso, a 67-year-old law enforcement officer, driving back to Essentia Health from his home in Finley, N.D.
Although painful, it turned out to be Huso’s lucky day. The symptoms were the same, but the cause of the pain was quite different.
A follow-up exam with a urologist turned up a troubling sign. A scan revealed that Huso’s other kidney, on his right side, exhibited a small mass.
Dr. Richard Coursey, an interventional radiologist at Essentia, soon after confirmed that Huso’s right kidney had a small malignant tumor.
Because Huso was on blood-thinning medication, required because he has an artificial heart valve, he wanted to avoid surgery.
It turned out that Huso was a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure called cryoablation – a technique to remove the tumor that involves a needle probe to freeze and thaw it.
“I said let’s do it, I’m all for it,” Huso said. His mother, who also once had a cancerous growth on her kidney, had the organ removed, an option he wanted to avoid.
Huso was a good candidate because his tumor was small, on the outside of the kidney, and easily accessible.
For the procedure, Huso was given a local anesthetic and conscious sedation – a “relaxing haze” – and was lying on his belly.
Guided by CT scan, Coursey inserted a needle slightly thinner than those used to donate blood, and first froze, then thawed, and refroze the small tumor.
The procedure, during which Huso was lying on his stomach, took 28 minutes of freezing and thawing.
“There was absolutely zero pain,” he said, adding that he conversed with the doctor during the procedure. “It was just nothing to it.”
Four hours later, he was on the way home. He didn’t find post-procedure painkillers necessary.
“I never even took an aspirin,” Huso said. He did experience mild soreness, similar to muscle ache, in his right side when bumping against the arm of his recliner.
Because it is minimally invasive, cryoablation is a good alternative for some people who are high surgical risks, Coursey said.
“It’s a good second-line thing to do,” he said.
Some minimally invasive alternatives to surgery involve microwaves or radio waves.
Cryoablation offered an advantage for a kidney procedure because the liquid in the organ can result in complications if microwave heat is applied.
“That’s why cryo is nice,” Coursey said.
Patients come back for follow-up exams at three months, six months and one-year intervals to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
“If it’s there you just go and touch it up with another probe,” Coursey said.
Huso, who just had his six-month checkup, remains free of the kidney cancer.
Cryoablation, which Sanford Health in Fargo has used since 2011 for certain cardiac conditions, has been around since the 1960s, but has really advanced in recent years.
“It can be used really to treat any tumors,” said Coursey, who has a subspecialty in cancer treatment.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522