Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a nonsurgical, minimally invasive procedure that uses heat generated from a medium-frequency alternating current to cauterize thyroid nodules and cysts. It will shrink nodules without compromising thyroid function, which is a distinct advantage over the more traditional surgical treatment.
Performed under local anesthesia, RFA is a relatively painless procedure performed in our office at the Thyroid and RFA Center for Excellence in Houston. We use a guided ultrasound to insert a thermal probe into the thyroid nodule. Through selective heating of the probe tip, the nodule is destroyed. The cauterized tissue is then broken down by the body.
You may have discovered during a routine physical exam that you have lumps or nodules of your thyroid gland. An ultrasound may be performed in our office to examine these abnormalities, including cysts, nodules or tumors. An ultrasound uses high-frequency, sound waves to provide us with pictures of your thyroid gland so we can determine any number of things:
Is the nodule solid or filled with fluid?
How many nodules are there?
Where exactly the nodule is located.
Boundaries of the nodule
Blood flow to the nodule
An ultrasound is a very accurate test and can determine nodules that are too small to feel during a physical exam. For nodules that are deemed non-surgical, ultrasounds may be used periodically to determine if the nodules are growing or shrinking. An ultrasound also may be used to help guide a needle during a fine-needle aspiration biopsy.
Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy
A fine-needle aspiration biopsy is a diagnostic procedure used to further investigate a lump or mass – in this case a thyroid nodule. It’s a simple procedure performed right in the office of the Thyroid and RFA Center for Excellence in Houston. We use an ultrasound to help guide accurate placement of the needle, which is thin and hollow, and insert it into the nodule to extract cells. Several samples may be taken in different areas of the nodule to assure a representative sample is available for a more definitive diagnosis. Each sample requires a new needle. The biopsy is performed under local anesthetic and – from start to finish – typically takes 30 minutes or less.
Two FNA biopsies with benign results are required before proceeding with an RFA procedure.