You likely never paid much attention to your thyroid gland until something went wrong and you needed to find the best treatment. While some thyroid issues — such as nodules, goiter, and cancer — often required surgery, we now have a minimally invasive tool in our arsenal: radiofrequency ablation (RFA).
At our endocrinology practice, Dr. Sean P. Nikravan and our highly skilled team routinely help patients with thyroid disease. If you’re, understandably, hesitant about surgery, we can determine whether innovative procedures such as thyroid RFA might be an option for you.
Thyroid RFA explained
For the past decade, endocrinologists in Europe and Asia have been using RFA to address certain thyroid issues, such as problematic nodules, goiter (an enlarged thyroid), and thyroid cancer. Based on their successes, many doctors are now turning to thyroid RFA instead of surgery with great results.
With this approach, we use ultrasound to guide a needle into the affected tissue. Then we deliver a high-frequency alternating current that ablates the target tissue, which effectively destroys the tissue.
There are many advantages to using RFA over surgery, including:
- We use local anesthesia
- We remove only the affected tissue instead of an entire lobe
- We perform the procedure on an outpatient basis, which means you’re free to go home afterward
- You have a faster recovery because there’s no open surgery
- You experience less scarring
We want to focus on one of these advantages, in particular — removing just the affected tissue instead of an entire lobe. For example, when we removed symptomatic or toxic nodules in the past, we often removed an entire lobe (your thyroid has two lobes). As a result, patients often needed medication afterward to make up for the deficit in thyroid hormone production.
With RFA, your affected lobe can remain largely intact and still produce these critical hormones, which reduces your reliance on medications after your procedure.
The success of thyroid RFA
Thanks to its use in Europe and Asia, we have a fair amount of research at our disposal that supports RFA for thyroid nodules. For example, one report that gathered information from different studies to determine the long-term success rates of RFA for benign non-functioning nodules and found that volume reduction rates at the four- and five-year marks were between 77% and 93%.
Furthermore, one study found that only 12% of patients needed a second treatment.
Is thyroid RFA right for you?
It’s impossible to say here whether thyroid RFA is a good approach for your thyroid issue. If you’re struggling with symptomatic but benign nodules, the odds are good that RFA may be a viable option.
However, if there’s any question about whether the tissue is malignant and how far the cancerous cells have spread, surgical removal of a lobe (or the entire gland) may still prove to be the more prudent course of action.
If you want to explore your options further, please contact our office in Newport Beach, California, for a thorough evaluation.