RF Ablation Procedure Overview
We understand medical terminology can be overwhelming and overcomplicated. We’re going to do our best to keep it simple.
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How Does It Work?
A numbing injection and/or cream will be applied to the skin near your nodule. Then, using ultrasound guidance, a thin-gauge needle is inserted into the neck using the nodule as the target location. Your doctor then carefully and methodically maps out and destroys the nodule using radio frequency that is concentrated at the tip of the needle.
The radio frequency agitates the structure of the cells in the unwanted nodule. That agitation creates thermal heat which destroys the tissue. While this is a painless procedure, you’re likely to feel some pressure and/or mild discomfort.
The entire process takes 30-60 minutes from start to finish. After a short evaluation period, you’ll be free to go home. Follow-up care typically includes an ice pack and an over- the-counter pain medication.
How Long Does it Take to Notice Results?
You will start noticing the biggest difference in the first 1-3 months following your procedure. Your nodule may continue to shrink over the next 36 months, but most reduction occurs within the first 12 months as your body rids itself of the damaged tissue.
Are You a Good Candidate for Thyroid RFA?
- Whether you have contraindications to or just prefer to avoid surgery and/or general anesthesia – thyroid RFA is a great option for you!
- When the nodule is so big it is visible from the outside of the neck – thyroid RFA can help!
- When dealing with the feeling of something in your neck, difficulty swallowing, breathing, and/or voice change – thyroid RFA can make those symptoms disappear!
Thyroid RFA can also help patients dealing with:
- Toxic nodules: hyperfunctioning nodules or hyperthyroidism
- The possible development of multinodular goiter
Will your doctor approve you for this type of treatment?
The type of nodule(s) and individual patient scenarios help determine which patients should consider Thyroid RFA therapy.
Discussing this treatment with your doctor is the best way to know for sure if you qualify for this procedure, but the following are typical requirements for RFA therapy:
- Two negative fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies OR one negative core-needle biopsy
- You must be clear of having any type of thyroid cancer
- Be able to stop any type of blood thinning medication or supplements prior to the procedure
- Nodules with a volume greater than 2ml
Sometimes internal devices, such as a pacemaker, can disqualify you from the therapy. As with any procedure, be sure to discuss with your doctor.
What are the possible complications?
In a clinical study, observing 505 patients (539 Nodules), only 3.3% experienced complications, including:
- Hematoma or bruising:
- 0% (usually disappears within 1-2 weeks)
- Temporary voice change:
- 94%. (recovery time of 1-90 days)
- 6% (1-2 days post procedure)
- Minor Skin Burn:
- 14% (resolves within one week)
- 07% (medication needed, similar to what would be needed following a thyroidectomy)
- Infection/abscess formation:
- 07% (surgical cleanup could be necessary to resolve this incredibly rare issue)
- Life-threatening complications:
- NONE REPORTED
Other nerve damage possible, although exceedingly rare
When is surgery preferred over Thyroid RFA?
Sometimes RFA therapy is not the best option.
In these scenarios, surgery would be the preferred course of action:
- Internal implantation devices such as a pacemaker may complicate the RFA procedure at this time. Be sure to consult your physician with questions.
- Most of the time, thyroid cancer is a contraindication for RFA. Although there are experimental types of RFA involving papillary and follicular thyroid cancer1, full resection of the thyroid gland is preferred for a multitude of reasons in this case. Be sure to consult your doctor for further information.