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Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) as a Solution for Thyroid Nodules

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) as a Solution for Thyroid Nodules

You’ve joined the large number of people who have thyroid nodules — half of people over age 60 develop the growths. Unfortunately, your thyroid nodule has become problematic, whether in terms of comfort or thyroid function, and you need to take action.

One great approach for problematic thyroid nodules is radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which board-certified endocrinologist Dr. Sean P. Nikravan offers here at our practice in Newport Beach, California.

In this month’s blog post, we provide a closer look at RFA as a solution for treatable thyroid nodules so you can make an informed decision about this option.

RFA explained

As the name suggests, radiofrequency ablation is a technique in which we deliver radiofrequency energy into your nodule to remove tissue. More specifically, we use radio waves to create a heating current that destroys some of the tissue that makes up your thyroid nodule. 

To access your thyroid nodule, we use a probe equipped with an electrode to deliver the energy, and we guide this probe into position using ultrasound. Because we're not cutting away tissue or making an incision to access your thyroid nodule, RFA is both a minimally invasive (probe only) and nonsurgical solution. 

Another benefit of RFA is that we can target the energy with exceptional precision. This allows us to treat only problematic nodule tissue and to leave healthy thyroid tissue very much intact.

As a result, your need for thyroid medications after the procedure are greatly reduced. Only one-quarter of people who undergo thyroid surgery need lifetime thyroid medications afterward because of collateral damage.

Undergoing RFA

When you come in for an RFA procedure, we first make you comfortable on the treatment table, and then we administer a local anesthetic. When you’re ready, we insert the needle and deliver the energy.

The procedure takes us only about 30 minutes to complete, and you’re free to return home afterward. In about 24 hours, you can resume normal activities, and you can get back to exercising in about 72 hours. These timeframes are far shorter than those for thyroid surgery.

Candidates for thyroid nodule RFA

We routinely turn to thyroid nodule RFA for benign nodules that have become problematic. For example, perhaps your thyroid has become large enough to interfere with your breathing or your voice or the growth is visible from your neck.

Though not common, thyroid nodules can also affect the function of your thyroid and lead to hyperthyroidism as the nodule produces extra thyroid hormones.

If you’re concerned about thyroid cancer, the disease is only found in about 8% of nodules in men and 4% in women. If we perform a thyroid nodule biopsy and the tissue isn’t benign, we can discuss different methods for removing the nodule because RFA isn’t available for this purpose, yet.

The only other general exclusions for thyroid nodule RFA are if you’re pregnant, if you have a heart arrhythmia, or if the nodule is located too close to sensitive areas.

If you have questions about thyroid nodule RFA, we invite you to contact our office to set up a consultation. Call Monday through Friday, or request an appointment online anytime.

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