Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Benign Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules, even when benign (non-cancerous), can grow large and cause swallowing or breathing difficulties, persistent cough, or cosmetic concerns. Learn about thyroid radiofrequency ablation, a non-surgical treatment for thyroid nodules.

What is RFA?

What is Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA):

Radiofrequency Ablation, also known as RFA, is a minimally-invasive option to treat thyroid nodules. Guided by ultrasound imaging, doctors can precisely deliver radiofrequency waves to heat up thyroid nodules to shrink them. The procedure is conducted in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia that enables patients to resume normal daily activity almost immediately after.

Watch Dr. Melanie Goldfarb as she explains RFA in a recent webinar

Procedure

The RFA Procedure: Step by Step What to Expect

About an hour prior to the procedure or upon check-in, we can offer patients a small dose of medicine to help them relax. Patients will sometimes dose off during the procedure, but you can be as awake as you’d like to be! Numbing medicine will be applied under the skin and around the thyroid gland.

Once you’re relaxed and your neck is numb, a thin radiofrequency needle is inserted and directed into the nodule under continual ultrasound guidance. Radiofrequency energy emitted from the tiny active tip at the end of the needle causes very precise destruction of the targeted tissue. The needle is systematically guided through the entire nodule and the process is repeated until the nodule is completely treated.

You will be ready to go home about 30-45 minutes after your procedure and any post-treatment discomfort you may have is easily managed with Tylenol.

About Thyroid Gland

About Thyroid Gland and Why it is Important

Our brains, our hearts, our digestive and metabolic systems function normally with the help of one small gland: the thyroid gland.

Your butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located at the front of your neck near the base of your throat wrapping around your windpipe. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, where it secretes hormones to regulate your body’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and metabolism.

Why Choose Thyroid RFA?

Why Choose Thyroid RFA?

Thyroid RFA is an amazing minimally invasive, non-surgical treatment for undesirable thyroid nodules that can make surgery and radioactive iodine (RAI) obsolete for many patients with benign thyroid nodules! This procedure is a quick, safe option that enables patients to resume normal daily activity almost immediately with a minimal recovery period.

The term radiofrequency (RF) refers to an alternating electric current oscillating between 200 kHz and 1200 kHz. Application of Radiofrequency agitates tissue ions as they attempt to follow the changes in direction of the alternating current, thus creating frictional heat around the electrode. Although heat creates immediate damage to the tissue, this is significant only in regions within a few millimeters of the electrode.

Benefits of Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation

  • Preserves your healthy thyroid tissue
  • Allows your thyroid to function normally without the need for a lifetime of medication
  • Minimally invasive procedure
  • Performed under local anesthesia
  • Performed as an out-patient procedure, which means no downtime or hospitalization
  • Shorter recovery times
  • No scarring
  • Volume reduction
  • Low complication rate
  • Worldwide use
  • Quality of life

Risks of Thyroid RFA

All treatments and procedures have risks and these will be discussed in detail with you by your doctor.

Serious complications are rare. The main risks are bleeding, hoarse voice due to nerve bruising, skin burns and infection. Infection can be a delayed problem and present with swelling, pain and redness.

Rare serious complications can include damage to the food pipe (esophagus), wind pipe (trachea) and nerves to the voice box (vocal cords). The risk of permanent injury to the voice box nerve leading to alteration in the voice is less than 1% (less than 1 in 100). Larger nodules could require more than one treatment for effective nodule shrinkage. Your doctor will discuss the likelihood of needing additional treatments with you during your initial assessment.

Effectiveness of RFA Treatment

Effectiveness of RFA Treatment

Clinical trials have shown that non-functioning benign nodules were reduced in size by 51-85 % within the first six months. In most patients, nodule related symptoms significantly improved or disappeared. Similar results were seen for normalizing blood hormone levels for patients with a “toxic” hormone-producing thyroid nodule.

Before & After RFA Photos

Before and After Photos