About Your Ablation Procedure

This information explains how to prepare for and what to expect when you have your ablation procedure at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses special needles to apply heat, cold, lasers, or chemical agents to destroy cancer cells. The ablation reaches the tumor through a special needle. You will need to have imaging tests done to guide the placement of the needle into the tumor. These imaging tests may be a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or an ultrasound. Once the needle reaches the targeted area, the ablation therapy will deliver the selected agent to destroy the cancer cells.

Your ablation will be done by an interventional radiologist. Interventional radiologists are doctors who specialize in image guided procedures and will use scans during the procedure to help guide the placement of needle into the tumor. Your doctor will speak with you about the type of ablation that is best for you.

Before Your Procedure

Ask about your medications

You may need to stop taking some of your medications before your procedure. Talk with your doctor about which medications are safe for you to stop. We have included some common examples below.

If you take medication that affects the way your blood clots, ask the doctor performing your procedure what to do. The doctor’s contact information is listed at the end of this resource.


Some examples of these medications are:

nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
(Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®)
(shot under your skin)
(Azulfidine®, Sulfazine®)

Whether your doctor recommends you stop taking it will depend on the reason you are taking it. Do not stop taking any of these medications without talking with your doctor.

Please review the information in the resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). It includes important information about medications you’ll need to avoid before your procedure and what medications you can take instead.

If you take insulin or other medications for diabetes, you may need to change the dose before your procedure. Ask the doctor who prescribes your diabetes medication what you should do the night before and the morning of your procedure.

If you take any diuretics (medications that make you urinate more often), you may need to stop taking them the day of your procedure. Some examples are furosemide (Lasix®) or hydrochlorothiazide. Speak with your doctor.

Arrange for someone to take you home

You must have someone 18 years or older take you home after your procedure. If you don’t have someone to do this, call one of the agencies below. They will send someone to go home with you. There’s usually a charge for this service, and you will need to provide transportation.

Agencies in New York                                         Agencies in New Jersey
Partners in Care: 888-735-8913                                         Caring People: 877-227-4649
Caring People: 877-227-4649                                          


Most people are discharged the same day as their procedure. Some people may need to spend the night at the hospital. We will not know when you will be discharged until after your procedure.

Tell us if you’re sick

If you develop any illness (fever, cold, sore throat, or flu) before your procedure, please call a nurse in Interventional Radiology at 212-639-2236. A nurse is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the Interventional Radiology fellow on call.

Note the time of your appointment

A staff member from Interventional Radiology will call you 2 business days before your procedure. He or she will tell you what time you should arrive at the hospital for your procedure. If your procedure is scheduled on a Monday, you will be called on the Thursday before. If you don’t receive a call by 12:00 pm the business day before your procedure, please call 212-639-5051.

If you need to cancel your procedure for any reason, please call the Interventional Radiology doctor who scheduled it for you.​

Instructions for eating and drinking before your procedure

12 ounces of water

  • Do not eat anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This includes hard candy and gum.
  • Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of water (see figure).
  • Starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, do not eat or drink anything. This includes water.
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The Day of Your Procedure

Things to remember

  • Take only the medications your doctor told you to take the morning of your procedure. Take them with a few sips of water.
  • Do not apply body creams, lotions, or petroleum jelly (Vaseline®). You can use deodorant and facial moisturizers. Do not wear eye makeup.
  • Remove any jewelry, including body piercings.
  • Leave all valuables, such as credit cards and jewelry, at home.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead, if possible. If you don’t have glasses, please bring a case for your contacts.

What to bring with you

  • A list of the medications you take at home
  • Medications for breathing problems (such as inhalers), medications for chest pain, or both
  • A case for your glasses or contacts
  • Your Health Care Proxy form, if you have completed one
  • If you use a CPap or BiPAP machine to sleep at night, please bring your machine with you, if possible. If you can’t bring your machine with you, we will give you one to use while you are in the hospital.

Where to park

Parking at MSK is available in the garage on East 66th Street between First and York Avenues. To reach the garage, enter East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block toward First Avenue, on the right (north) side of the street. A pedestrian tunnel connects the garage to the hospital. For questions about pricing, call 212-639-2338.

There are also nearby commercial garages on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues and on East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues. 

Where to go

Please arrive at the Surgical Day Hospital (SDH) at 1275 York Avenue (between East 67th and East 68th Streets). This is the main building of MSK. Take the M elevator to the 2nd floor.

What to expect

Once you arrive at the hospital, doctors, nurses, and other staff members will ask you to state and spell your name and date of birth many times. This is for your safety. People with the same or similar name may be having procedures on the same day.

You will change into a gown, robe, and slippers. An intravenous (IV) line will be started. When you are ready, you will be escorted to Interventional Radiology.

You will be helped onto the procedure table. Your legs may be shaved to allow for placement of pads that are required for your procedure.

Your skin will be cleaned with an antiseptic and covered with sterile drapes. A local anesthetic will be injected in the area where your doctor will be working to make it numb. Images of the area will be taken so that the needle can be placed in the tumor. When the needle is in the right place, your ablation will begin.

After your ablation, you will have a small dressing on the site where the needle was inserted.

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After Your Procedure

You will stay in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) until you are fully awake. During this time, your nurse will be watching you closely.

While you are in the hospital, let your doctor or nurse know if you have pain. They will give you medication for your pain.

If you are going home the same day, your nurse will remove your IV. Your nurse will explain your discharge instructions to both you and your care partner before you go home.

If you are going to be admitted overnight, you will be transferred to a hospital room. Most people are discharged the following day.

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Follow-up Care

You will have follow-up imaging tests and doctor’s appointments. These are to make sure that the treatment has completely killed the tumor. Call your doctor’s office if you don’t already have imaging tests set up.

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Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You Have:

  • Pain, nausea, or vomiting that is uncontrolled or worse than it was before your treatment.
  • A temperature of 100.4° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • Any new symptoms
  • Any questions or concerns
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Contact Information

If you have any questions or concerns, please call Interventional Radiology at 212-639-2236. You can reach a staff member Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call 212-639-2000 and ask for the fellow on call for Interventional Radiology.

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