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Radiofrequency Ablation Reduces Size of Benign Nodules in Thyroid

An endocrine surgeon at the Providence Saint John’s Cancer Institute (SJCI) in Santa Monica, California successfully conducted the organization’s first thyroid radiofrequency ablation (RFA). The minimally invasive procedure, which is not yet readily available in the mainstream health care industry, is designed to reduce the size of noncancerous nodules.

Melanie Goldfarb, MD, director of the Center for Endocrine Tumors and Disorders at SJCI, recently carried out the procedure, which lasted less than an hour—an expected timeframe for this outpatient procedure—at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

“There’s a lot of potential for this technology,” says Goldfarb, who notes the commonality of abnormal growths in the thyroid. “This procedure isn’t widely available yet, and it won’t be appropriate for everyone, but it gives patients a really reasonable alternative to surgery.”

RFA is a relatively nascent practice that uses radio waves to systematically burn and kill unwanted tissue. As of now, this technique is only approved for benign nodules that are symptomatic, growing, and/or of cosmetic concern.

Using technology developed by Taewoong Medical, patients who undergo RFA should expect the procedure to last 15 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the lesion, and then will be kept another 15 to 20 minutes for observation.

While RFA is a proven method to shrink and destroy thyroid tumors, Goldfarb says the procedure is not as effective as surgery.

“It’s not as definitive (as surgery)—nodules can grow back—but it’s still very effective,” she says. “The side effects of RFA are minimal compared with the alternative, which can sometimes lead to patients having to take medications the rest of their lives if it means having to remove the thyroid.”

Although Goldfarb is hopeful this technology becomes more prevalent, she is a staunch proponent that the procedure should only be conducted by medical experts with a focus on treating thyroids.

“Thyroid RFA is new so you want to ensure your medical team has a good grasp on what they’re doing and why,” she says. “But under the right hands and with appropriate counseling, it’s a procedure that I’d feel comfortable having done on myself or a family member.

“It’s so exciting to bring RFA to Saint John’s and to our community who can greatly benefit by having this option available to them.”

— Source: Providence