RFA – general information
Instead of surgical removal, many nodules and cysts can be ablated in situ by heat treatment using a special needle. This technique was developed in 2002 by Prof.Dr.Baek from Seoul (South Korea) and first adopted for the treatment of thyroid nodules and cysts. Since then, he and others have further refined the method and many scientific papers have been published showing it to be both efficacious and safe. In Europe, the RFA procedure is offered in special thyroid clinics in a growing number of countries.
Ablation is accomplished by dissipation of heat (produced by high-frequency radio waves) from the tip of a special water-cooled needle. Specialized white blood cells subsequently remove the dead nodule tissue in the weeks and months following RFA, which causes the nodule or cyst to shrink considerably. Large-scale studies have shown an average reduction in nodule volume of up to 70% after 6 months, and of up to 90% after one year, depending on the original nodule size. A small amount of scar tissue within the thyroid lobe is often the only vestige of the treated nodule.
As the volume of the nodule decreases, common clinical complaints (swallowing problems, pressure sensation, a feeling of throat constriction) are reduced in parallel and the visible bulge in the neck disappears.
The RFA procedure is performed in a specially adapted room in our institute. We ask patients to allow a total of 2 hours time, 30 to 60 minutes of which are required for the procedure itself, depending on nodule size. The treatment is performed using local anaesthesia and pain is usually not a problem. Most patients tell us that they felt no pain at all, or that it was acceptable. As a rule we, moreover, don’t administer any analgesic or other medications, and patients are responsive at all times.