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  • Writer's pictureDr. Richard Harding

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Of Thyroid Nodules

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Dr. Richard J Harding has been evaluating and removing hundreds of thyroid glands per year for the past twenty years. He is very pleased to introduce a non-surgical treatment for large benign thyroid nodules. This new method applies internal energy to the thyroid nodules to effectively destroy problematic tissue without injuring the healthy outer thyroid gland.

The benefits are the elimination of the symptoms from the large nodule and preservation of thyroid function. Many people have inquired about simply removing only the symptomatic nodule during surgery and leaving the residual healthy thyroid tissue. From the surgical perspective, this would cause complications including bleeding during and after surgery. Additionally, the way the body would respond to this type of procedure could create more problems than it solves. For this reason the removal of the entire thyroid lobe is generally advised.

With this new Radiofrequency technique, the energy can be applied under precise ultrasound guidance and the damage to the healthy tissue is minimized. The functioning thyroid lobe is preserved, the thyroid nodule shrinks in size, and the main objectives are accomplished.

Radiofrequency energy is currently being utilized for many tissue types in the body including veins, nerves, liver, and kidneys. The use of radiofrequency in thyroid nodules has been utilized in Korea since 2002. The Korean and Italian protocols for use with benign thyroid disease has been studied internationally such that entire protocols are accepted for safe and effective therapies. For this very reason this technique has spread around the globe, only to be recently approved in the United States by the FDA in late 2018. Currently there are very few providers in the United States who perform this technique. Many people have been traveling to Italy and Korea to have their nodules treated. This is no longer necessary as the procedure can be performed in my surgical office.

Patients who have thyroid nodule symptoms will receive a comprehensive evaluation including neck ultrasound, ultrasound guided biopsies, and thyroid nodule radiofrequency ablation in one location. In order to be a candidate for the radiofrequency ablation, a patient needs two sequential biopsies to prove that they do not have a thyroid cancer. Those who are not candidates for this procedure of course will have the opportunity to discuss other surgical options available to them.

Currently the evaluation of the thyroid nodules is covered by insurance companies, however the radiofrequency ablation of thyroid nodules is not considered a recognized benefit. We are hopeful this will change as more surgeons and endocrinologists establish more experience with this technique and both the healthcare community and patients advocate for the non-surgical solution to the treatment of benign thyroid nodules.

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