Improvements in imaging technology have resulted in an increase in detection of small renal masses (SRMs). Minimally invasive ablation modalities, including cryoablation, radiofrequencey ablation, microwave ablation and irreversible electroporation, are currently being used to treat SRMs in select groups of patients. Cryoablation and radiofrequency ablation have been extensively studied. Presently, cryoablation is gaining popularity because the resulting ice ball can be visualized easily using ultrasonography. Tumour size and location are strong predictors of outcome of radiofrequency ablation. One of the main benefits of microwave ablation is that microwaves can propagate through all types of tissue, including desiccated and charred tissue, as well as water vapour, which might be formed during the ablation. Irreversible electroporation has been shown in animal studies to affect only the cell membrane of undesirable target tissues and to spare adjacent structures; however, clinical studies that depict the efficacy and safety of this treatment modality in humans are still sparse. As more experience is gained in the future, ablation modalities might be utilized in all patients with tumours <4 cm in diameter, rather than just as an alternative treatment for high-risk surgical patients.
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