Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Thyroid Nodule
Thyroid nodules are lumps that can unusually grow on the thyroid gland. They can be solid or fluid filled. Most often, these lumps are benign and do not cause any symptoms. However, in rare cases, these can be cancerous (malignant).
At times these benign thyroid nodules can grow large enough that they can be felt, seen from the outside at the base of the neck, or even pressed on the windpipe or oesophagus. This can cause shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing.
In some cases, these benign thyroid nodules cause the thyroid gland to produce an excess amount of the thyroxine hormone, causing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Treatment for Thyroid Nodules
If thyroid nodules are causing uncomfortable symptoms, they will need to be treated. Common treatment approaches for thyroid nodules include thyroid hormonal therapy or surgery. Both of these methods, however, may have side effects. A safer method that is now being increasingly used to treat thyroid nodules is Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation.
Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a non-surgical and minimally invasive method that shrinks benign thyroid nodules. It is a safe and effective method that can efficiently restore normal thyroid function with fewer risks of side effects than other methods of treatment.
What happens before Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
Before a Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is scheduled, you may expect the following:
- Doctors will perform tests to see that the nodule is benign (non-cancerous)
- Doctors will schedule an appointment for the procedure.
- If you are on any medication like blood thinners, you must inform the doctor before your appointment.
- You may be required to take prescribed medicine and empty the bladder before the procedure.
- It is advised to have someone accompany you to the appointment.
- You may need to sign a consent form before the procedure.
What to expect during a Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation?
- The doctors will administer local anaesthesia to begin the procedure. Patients may also be given a mild sedative to help them stay calm during the procedure.
- The doctors will ask the patient to try and talk during the procedure to ensure that the vocal cords are not affected.
- Doctors will use imaging techniques like an ultrasound to guide a needle into the thyroid nodule.
- The needle, which is connected to a generator, uses heat to perform the ablation technique. The generator uses electricity to generate heat around the tip of the needle.
- Once the needle is inserted into the nodule, the doctors move it back and forth to completely burn (ablate) the nodule from the inside.
- The burnt or ablated tissue will form scar tissue over time and shrink. It should be noted that during the process, the normal thyroid tissue will remain unaffected.
What to expect after Thyroid Ablation?
Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation is usually an outpatient procedure, and the patient can go home the same day. It is advised that the patients arrange for someone to drive them home. It is normal to feel some pain after the procedure. Thyroid nodules can be expected to shrink around 50% to 97% after the procedure. Maximum shrinkage can be expected to occur within the first four weeks. The shrinkage will continue for six months to a year. As the shrinkage happens, symptoms of thyroid nodules will reduce as well. Some patients may require follow-up treatments around three months apart.
Complications & Risks of Thyroid Ablation
While complications and risks of thyroid ablation are lesser than that of thyroid nodule surgery, some degree of risk is always there. Common complications may be bleeding, hoarse voice (due to nerve bruising), skin burns, and infection. In rare scenarios, complications like vocal cord paralysis and damage to the surrounding structures in the neck may occur.
Who is not Eligible?
Anyone with a thyroid nodule causing uncomfortable symptoms is generally considered a candidate for the procedure. Most people can get the procedure as it is minimally invasive and a safer option than surgery. However, patients who cannot undergo local anaesthesia may need to consult with a doctor if they can have thyroid ablation. Also, thyroid ablation is not recommended for patients with follicular neoplasms or primary thyroid cancer.
Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a safe and effective method to treat benign thyroid nodules. However, it must be performed by an experienced endocrine surgeon. Apollo Hospitals, Karnataka, has cutting-edge technology and highly expert surgeons who perform the procedure using the latest and most advanced equipment.
If you have thyroid nodules that are causing issues, you can make an appointment at Apollo Hospitals, Karnataka. Our doctors are available to answer all queries regarding the procedure.