Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a medical procedure that uses high-frequency energy to destroy abnormal cells. The procedure offers relief for people with benign thyroid nodules.
Endocrinologists, doctors specializing in treating hormone dysfunction, are qualified to offer RFA treatment. They undergo specialized training in using radiofrequency equipment and ablation techniques to provide safe and effective relief for patients with thyroid nodules.
What Conditions Can Be Treated with Radiofrequency Ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive, safe procedure that uses heat to destroy tissue. It is often used to treat conditions that require removing small amounts of tissue, such as thyroid nodules.
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. Radiofrequency ablation treats thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and multinodular goiters.
Radiofrequency ablation is also used to treat other medical conditions, such as arrhythmias and chronic pain in the joints, neck, and back.
There is minimal risk of infection because it is a minimally invasive procedure. It is typically performed on an outpatient basis and usually takes less than an hour to complete.
Recovery times vary, but most people can return to normal activities within a day.
Radiofrequency ablation provides a better quality of life for many patients. The procedure is generally safe and effective, with a high success rate and a low risk of complications.
What Health Care Provider Performs Radiofrequency Ablation?
Doctors who perform radiofrequency ablation must complete a training program that teaches them how to safely and effectively use the equipment.
The training program includes didactic and hands-on components, including learning about the generator, electrode, grounding equipment, and other components of the RFA machine. They also learn the RFA techniques, which offer the best chance of full ablation. The course typically takes several weeks to complete.
After completing the training program, doctors can offer their patients radiofrequency ablation as a treatment option.
Do You Have to Be a Doctor to Perform Radiofrequency Ablation?
Although doctors usually perform the procedure, no formal RFA training or certification is legally required. However, it is vital for the person performing the procedure to have a good understanding of thyroid anatomy and physiology and how to use the equipment properly.
Radiofrequency ablation can be very delicate to administer, so it is essential to have a steady hand and a good eye for detail. As long as these requirements are met, any medical professional can perform radiofrequency ablation.
Who is a Candidate for Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
Radiofrequency ablation is an option for people who are not candidates for surgery due to the type of thyroid nodules or cannot have surgery because of other health problems. It can also offer pain relief for people who want to avoid the side effects of surgery or radiation therapy.
How Do You Prepare for Radiofrequency Ablation?
Before the procedure, your doctor will perform a physical exam to palpate your neck to detect the presence of nodules. They may also order blood and thyroid function tests.
You may also need to have an ultrasound of your thyroid. This helps your doctor determine the size and location of your thyroid nodule.
If your doctor suspects that the nodule may be cancerous due to its size, they will prescribe an ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. If you have thyroid cancer, you are ineligible for thyroid RFA; thyroid cancers can be treated with surgery or radioactive iodine treatment.
Before the procedure, you may be asked to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners. You should also not eat or drink for six hours before the procedure.
On the day of the procedure, wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and avoid wearing jewelry around your neck.
How Does RFA Work?
Local anesthesia is used to numb the area, and a lubricating jelly is applied to the side of the neck for the ultrasound wand. The doctor uses an ultrasound transducer to guide a thin needle into the thyroid gland. Then a radiofrequency probe is passed through the needle, and the generator is activated. The probe emits radio waves that generate heat, destroying abnormal cells.
The ablation procedure usually takes less than an hour, and you should observe a noticeable reduction in thyroid nodule volume within six weeks of treatment. However, thyroid function returns to normal within as little as a month.
What are the Risks of Radiofrequency Ablation?
As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and side effects associated with radiofrequency ablation. These can include pain at the treatment site, temporary paralysis of the vocal cords, and difficulty swallowing.
More severe complications such as bleeding or infection can occur in rare cases.
Therefore, discussing the risks and benefits of radiofrequency ablation with one of our experienced and trained medical professionals at Associated Endocrinologists is essential.
When Should Thyroid Patients Call the Doctor?
Thyroid patients should always consult their physician if they develop the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing, swallowing, or speaking
- Wheezing or respiratory distress
- Chest pain
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
In addition, anyone who experiences any sudden or dramatic changes in weight, energy levels, mood, or appearance should also consult their physician.
When Should You Undergo Surgery?
There are some instances when surgery may be the most effective treatment option. If a thyroid nodule is cancerous or if it is causing compression of the trachea or esophagus, surgery may be necessary.
Thyroid surgery can also treat Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition that causes the thyroid gland to become overactive.
Call Associated Endocrinologists for an Appointment Today
The trained and experienced staff at Associated Endocrinologists specialize in thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, adrenal glands, osteoporosis, and diabetes disorders.
Our practice has been helping patients for over 40 years. Call today for an appointment.