Clinical Perspectives

Nonsurgical Treatment of Thyroid Nodules

September 18, 2020


Dr. Julie Hallanger Johnson  and Dr. Bela Kis 

Thyroid nodules are exceedingly common and most often benign.  Therefore, alternative options for therapy, other than surgical thyroidectomy and thyroid lobectomy would be beneficial for many patients with symptomatic benign thyroid nodules.

Multiple techniques have been developed, including thermal ablation technologies, such as radiofrequency ablation.  Ethanol ablative techniques have shown to be effective in treating benign thyroid cysts and even in treating nodal metastases from papillary thyroid carcinoma.  

Moffitt’s highly specialized endocrine cancer treatment team, in collaboration with our team of expert interventional radiologists, are developing a new program in radiofrequency ablation. This program will allow options other than surgery for the treatment of benign thyroid nodules. 

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure which uses ultrasound guidance to insert a specialized needle, the RFA probe, into the targeted tissue. The RFA probe generates heat around the tip of the probe by delivering alternating current to the tissue. The selective heating around the tip of the probe, cauterizes the thyroid nodule. The cauterized thyroid tissue is removed by the body’s immune system over several months, leading to gradual shrinkage of the nodule.

The RFA treatment is relatively painless and performed under local anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. The procedure usually takes between 15-60 minutes. RFA is highly effective for benign thyroid nodules and helps to avoid thyroid function compromise and the longer recovery times of thyroid surgery.

The Head and Neck-Endocrine Oncology Department provides individualized treatment and supportive care to patients with cancers that affect the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands as well as other endocrine organs. To refer a patient to Moffitt, complete our online form or contact a physician liaison for assistance or support.  As part of our efforts to shorten referral times as much as possible, online referrals are typically responded to within 24 - 48 hours.