HALO radiofrequency ablation treatment uses high frequency radio waves to destroy cancerous or damaged cells and is carried out during a standard endoscopy. This is usually done under sedation or with a light general anaesthetic, and takes less than an hour.

What is HALO radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation it involves introducing high frequency radio waves directly into a small area of tissue to destroy, or ablate it. It is used to treat several types of cancer and other precancerous conditions.

The HALO technique has been developed specifically to destroy the abnormal Barrett’s oesophagus cells in the lining of the oesophagus. These cells look different so they can be easily recognised in an endoscopy examination.

The HALO technique is also carried out by endoscopy. A small balloon is introduced into the area of abnormal cells and high intensity radio waves are passed through it. This causes intense heating, but only in the region very near to the surface of the balloon. The abnormal cells are killed, but the normal non-Barrett’s cells nearby are left unharmed. After treatment, not only are the precancerous cells (dysplasia) removed, but the entire Barrett’s oesophagus segment is removed as well. 

Treatment is performed on a day case basis and most patients do not need to remain in The London Clinic overnight. Most patients require two or three treatments over a period of a few months, though a small number may need more.

Sometimes, HALO radiofrequency ablation needs to be combined with Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR)if the surgeon sees visible nodules (swellings) in the lining of the oesophagus.

Recovering from HALO radiofrequency ablation

You will usually experience a little chest discomfort and difficulty swallowing for a week or so and you may feel nauseous for a few days. Some people also experience rare side effects:

  • difficulties swallowing
  • One in 15 patients can be left with a stricture or narrowing of the oesophagus after treatment, but can treated in another endoscopy procedure.

Patients with Barrett's oesophagus should continue to take their standard acid suppressing medicine after treatment, to prevent symptoms of acid reflux. Even if your HALO treatment seems to have been very successful, it is sensible for you to carry on attending your regular check-up appointments as you would if you had not had HALO.

HALO success rates

Once you have developed high-grade dysplasia in your oesophagus, your risk of developing oesophageal cancer in the next 5 years is around 50%..

Removing the abnormal cells cuts the risk of the cells becoming cancerous. Data from following patients with high-grade dysplasia for 2 years after their HALO treatment shows that all of the abnormal oesophageal cells were completely removed in around 80% of cases. Data from patients with low-grade dysplasia showed that all abnormal cells were successfully eradicated in 90% of patients.