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Thyroid nodule treatment: Thyroid Radiofrequency ablation vs. Surgery

The thyroid gland is small, but it does a lot of work. While it is primarily in charge of metabolism, it ultimately impacts every aspect of your body. We normally consider automobile batteries once they stop performing correctly. Although quite frequent, thyroid nodules can impair thyroid function and cause symptoms. While the large bulk of nodules are benign and do not threaten one’s life, they can cause complications. Certain benign thyroid nodules may lead to discomfort, swallowing difficulties, increased thyroid hormone production, or even cosmetic concerns.

Depending on the nature of the illness, thyroid surgery or radioactive iodine were traditionally the only therapeutic choices for troublesome thyroid nodules. While both are generally safe, they have downsides.

Thyroidectomy or Surgical removal of the thyroid

If you are undergoing thyroid surgery, also known as a thyroidectomy, to remove all or part of your thyroid gland—a butterfly-shaped organ near the base of your neck—you should know what to expect during your recovery. Following Surgery, common side effects include neck pain, stiffness, and sore throat. Problems are uncommon, but when they do occur, they can be serious, even fatal. In contrast, the number of complications occurring due to radiofrequency ablation is near to none.

Radiofrequency Ablation of thyroid nodule

Radiofrequency ablation is a medical technique that uses heat generated by alternating current that is transferred from the generator to the area via an electrode to ablate defective tissue. Radiofrequency ablation is a painless procedure that does not require general anesthetic when performed under local anesthesia. Your doctor will place the probe into the thyroid nodule using guided ultrasonography. The nodule is cauterized by selective warming of the probe tip. The body then breaks down the cauterized tissue over months.


Dr. Richard Guttler
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Side Effects: Thyroid ablation vs. Surgery

1. Neck Stiffness and Pain:

During Surgery, the neck is stretched, and many patients avoid giving their neck movements afterward. This might cause neck stiffness and pain. Taking painkillers after Surgery may alleviate discomfort, making it simpler to move your neck and resulting in reduced stiffness later on. A warm compress may also be beneficial, whereas no such complication occurs in radiofrequency ablation of the thyroid nodule.

2. An Aching Throat

The trachea, or windpipe, is often implanted with a tracheal tube during thyroid surgery to help you breathe. Upon swallowing, you can have a lump in your throat and a sore throat as a result. On the other hand, Radiofrequency ablation only requires general anesthesia, so there is no need for tracheal tube implantation.

Until you are well, you can manage the discomfort by using a numbing throat spray like Chloraseptic or numbing lozenges like Cepacol.

3. Difficulty in swallowing or Dysphagia

Although swallowing issues are frequent following thyroid surgery, they often pass within two weeks. For the first several days, eating soft meals can be beneficial. Examples include casseroles, cooked vegetables, and dishes with sauces or gravy. However, the condition is much mild in the ablation of the thyroid.

4. Recurrent laryngeal nerve damage causing hoarseness of voice

Your voice could sound hoarse or whispery after Surgery, and speaking may be exhausting. This hoarseness is typical for the first week or two following Surgery and should be anticipated.

After Surgery, symptoms typically get better within a few weeks, although they might linger for as long as six months. Although there isn’t a precise cure for this hoarseness, it’s beneficial for your relatives to be aware of the issue so that you don’t feel compelled to speak more than is comfortable or loudly. After Surgery, a patient might notice more serious symptoms like permanent hoarseness if the nerve is damaged, Whereas there is only temporary hoarseness in the ablation procedure.

5. Unwellness or vomiting:

Thyroidectomy often causes nausea and vomiting following Surgery.

6. Temporary hypoparathyroidism:

After thyroid surgery, transient (temporary) hypoparathyroidism can occur. When you have insufficient parathyroid hormone, you have hypoparathyroidism, which can cause low calcium levels.



Complications: Thyroid ablation vs. Surgery

The complications occurring after Surgery are far worse as compared to thyroid ablation.

1. Hematoma:

A neck hematoma is bleeding into the tissues around the neck that, if not identified and treated immediately once, could be fatal. A firm, swollen area on the front or side of the neck (typically beneath the incision), neck pain, and signs of an airway obstruction like shortness of breath, dizziness, or stridor (a high-pitched wheezing sound that is typically more audible with inspiration than exhalation) are all possible symptoms. Fortunately, there are no such complications in the ablation of the thyroid.

2. Hypoparathyroidism:

Hypoparathyroidism brought on by damage to or removal of the thyroid glands can sometimes be permanent, although being transitory in some instances. Symptoms may include tingling and numbness in the soles of the feet, muscle spasms and cramps, anxiety, sadness, and headaches if calcium supplementation is not utilized and the disease is permanent.

3. Risk of Infection:

Despite being very uncommon with thyroid surgery, the risk of infection exists with all types of Surgery. One out of every 2,000 procedures has it happen. 9 Antibiotics administered intravenously (IV) is commonly used as a kind of treatment to eradicate microorganisms.

4. Seroma or fluid collection:

A seroma or collection of fluid can develop following numerous surgical procedures. Large seromas could require drainage even if the body frequently reabsorbs the fluid.

5. Thyrotoxic crisis Or Thyroid Storm:

It is a serious medical crisis brought on by extremely high thyroid hormone levels in the blood. Although it is rare, Grave’s disease is frequently involved when it does happen following thyroid surgery. An elevated fever (more than 102 degrees F in most cases), excessive sweating, a rapid heartbeat, and occasionally delirium are signs of a thyroid storm (severe confusion).

6. Complications due to anesthesia:

As general anesthesia is typically used during thyroidectomies, potential problems from it could potentially happen. Changes in blood pressure or heart issues can be examples of this. The complications mentioned above are associated with Surgery and not with radiofrequency ablation of a nodule, as it is an outpatient procedure.



Check out our patient animation video that takes you through every step of the thyroid rfa journey.  Topics covered include:

• What is Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation

• Moving shot technique explained

• Tips for Thyroid RFA Treatment

• Advantages of Thyroid Radio Frequency Ablation


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