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Radiofrequency Ablation vs. Thyroidectomy: Which is Right for You?

For those suffering from enlarged thyroid nodules, thyroid radiofrequency ablation may be a more appropriate alternative to a thyroidectomy.

For those with hyperthyroidism, certain types of thyroid cancer, and other thyroid issues, ablation can treat these conditions both short-term and long-term.

Unlike a thyroidectomy, RF ablation is non-surgical and non-invasive. It also leaves minimal scarring compared to surgical procedures.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between radiofrequency ablation and thyroidectomy. We’ll also discuss the various advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches.

Thyroid Radio Frequency Ablation 101

Thyroid radiofrequency ablation can treat benign thyroid nodules, TNs. Hyperthyroidism, certain types of myoma, cold nodules, and hot nodules. There is a large body of clinical research demonstrating that RFA is both effective and safe.

How Radiofrequency Ablation for Thyroids Works

Your surgeon will use what’s called a moving shot technique to ablate your thyroid nodule. This involves a ultrasound transducer to identify the location of your thyroid nodule.

Using a hand-guided needle and probe, the doctor will ablate the portions of your thyroid nodule that are enlarged or abnormal. The doctor will move the probe back and forth in your nodule until all the unnecessary tissue is ablated.

Thyroid therapy does not require general anesthesia. In other words, you will be conscious during the procedure. It only requires local anesthesia to numb the area and reduce pain. The procedure lasts around 30 minutes, at which point your neck will be iced to reduce inflammation and pain.

After this point, you should experience significant shrinkage of your thyroid nodule over the next one to two years. Proper follow-ups on a monthly or tri-monthly basis are recommended to ensure that your nodule is shrinking and that you do not have any complications. It is incredibly rare to require hormones or experience hyperthyroidism after RFA.

Thyroidectomy 101

A thyroidectomy involves a surgical removal of your entire thyroid gland or a part of the thyroid gland. Thyroidectomies are sometimes used to treat non-cancerous or cancerous thyroids. They can also be used to treat hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid.

If your entire thyroid is removed, then you may require daily hormone treatment for the rest of your life to replace the function of your natural thyroid. Traditional thyroidectomies leave a large incision in the center of your neck.

You may experience a weak voice after the surgery and even neck pain or irritation while breathing.

Dr. Richard Guttler
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Benefits of Radiofrequency Ablation for Treating Thyroids

  • Outpatient therapy
  • Minimal complications
  • Better cosmetic outcomes
  • Low complication risk
  • Low risk of hyperthyroidism or need for medications
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Benefits of a Thyroidectomy


  • Remove cancerous or abnormal thyroid
  • Identify suspicious nodules for further testing.
  • Alternative plan if previous therapies are not effective.

Downsides Of Radiofrequency Ablation

  • It may take longer to notice reduced thyroid nodule size
  • You may need more than one RFA therapy
  • While very small, there is a risk of injuring surrounding critical structures or having long-term complications, as with any medical therapy.

Downsides of Thyroidectomy

  • Lifelong hormone supplementation
  • Raspy or weak voice
  • Damaged critical structures
  • Bleeding that blocks your airway,
  • Infection
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain


RFA Clinical Evidence

RFA is a less costly, effective alternative to surgery. It also provides greater cosmetic outcomes according to clinical research.

Additionally, thermal ablation provides greater patient satisfaction, a greater quality of life, and a shorter hospital stay compared to thyroidectomies. Additional clinical evidence supports other advantages to radiofrequency thermal ablation:

Fewer Cosmetic Side Effects for RF Ablation

RFA provides excellent cosmetic outcomes when compared to surgery and additional therapies. The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism did a 2015 study and found that every patient undergoing RFA had a higher cosmetic score.

Low Risk Of Complications from Thyroid RF Ablation

As a very safe procedure, RFA can reduce your nodule size by up to 69% in 12 months. Perhaps just as importantly, 88% of patients in this study had their compressive symptoms go away completely.

Of the patients who underwent treatment for pre-toxic TNs, 100% were able to stop methimazole therapy. Hyperthyroidism was completely resolved in 79% of patients across the study. No major hospitalizations or complications were observed in the RFA patients.

RFA is a Fast Outpatient Therapy

The Clinical Journal of the Society for Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society of Australia performed a 2017 study. During this research, they found that thermal therapies provide TN shrinkage and also improve local symptoms.

Excellent Recovery

They also found that the complications compared to surgery, like thyroidectomy, are lower. 99.8% recovery from complications. The study saw only 1.3% of patients had major complications, whereas 3.3% overall had complications at all.

This was analyzing RFA on over 1,500 nodules. It’s important to note that even in the patients with complications, 99.8% of them recovered.

Experts Agree about RFA

The European Thyroid Journal took a look at two decades of clinical RFA usage. They found zero evidence of thyroid neoplasia over those studies. However, as with any procedure, physicians and surgeons should undergo proper training and use the proper equipment to perform RFA for patients with thyroid conditions.

thyroid ablation

Receiving RFA Safely

The proper equipment is essential for the safe performance of RFA therapy. Your doctor is recommended to reach out to RGS Healthcare to obtain equipment such as the Mygen V-1000 RF generator and proper tools for reforming ablation.

At a minimum, the doctor should be equipped with a doppler screen to monitor the patient’s thyroid at all times. They should also have a hand-hold probe placed on the throat of the patient for full visibility of the thyroid.

Using an RF generator with a proper level of ablation is also key in assuring proper removal of excess thyroid tissue without damaging surrounding tissues.

Groundbreaking Thyroid Treatment Without Undergoing Surgery

Ultimately, thyroid ablation is a safer alternative to surgery. With minimal complications and long-term side effects, patients can enjoy a better quality of life with this therapy.

Ask your doctor about your options when it comes to treating your thyroid condition. At RGS Healthcare, we are dedicated to better patient safety and physician knowledge when it comes to this life-saving treatment.