An ultrasound image of the thyroid nodule, seen as an oval gray mass, sitting above the trachea (trachea). It is surrounded by the anterior strap muscles, the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the common carotid artery.
DALLAS – May 23, 2022 – When Vickie Bell-Percival was offered the chance to have a nodule on her thyroid treated with a new non-surgical technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA)she did not hesitate.
“The options were surgery or RFA. My concerns were how invasive the treatment would be and how long it would take to heal. I also wanted it done quickly. My doctor said she could schedule the ablation for Friday and – boom shakalaka! — it was done,” Ms. Bell-Percival said.
Earlier this year, Bell-Percival became the first UT Southwestern patient to undergo RFA for her thyroid nodule. Although being the first made her experience special, Ms Bell-Percival, 68, a busy computer scientist and matriarch of a large family, is typical of patients who will opt for this treatment over surgery.
During his May examination, the nodule had shrunk by 50% since the intervention eight weeks earlier.
Thyroid nodules – lumps that form in the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck – are so common that nearly half of the population will develop one before the age of 60. They are more common in women than in men and more likely to occur as people age. .
Most thyroid nodules aren’t cancerous, but even mild nodules can cause health problems, including persistent cough, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and hoarseness. Large nodules can also be disfiguring.
Iram Hussain, MD
RFA uses an electrode with a high-frequency current to generate heat to burn tissue, causing cell death and shrinkage of the treated part over time, the endocrinologist explained Iram Hussain, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, who was Ms. Bell-Percival’s attending physician. Dr. Hussain is a member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, specializing in the treatment of thyroid nodules.
“We use ultrasound guidance with a parallel approach throughout the procedure so we can see the whole needle in real time, reducing the risk of complications,” Dr. Hussain said. “RFA has several advantages over surgery. The patient will not need general anesthesia, have no incisions or scars, will not need thyroid medications and will be able to return to normal activities in a shorter time. Generally speaking, any patient with a benign solid nodule who is a candidate for surgery could consider RFA. »
ARF has long been used to treat liver tumors, varicose veins and other conditions. Since receiving FDA approval in 2018, a handful of medical centers, including UT Southwestern, have also begun using the technique to treat benign thyroid nodules. UT Southwestern is ranked among the top 25 hospitals in the nation for diabetes and endocrinology care by US News and World Report.
Ms. Bell-Percival’s nodule, which was initially symptomless, was discovered by another UT Southwest physician, G. Sunny Sharma, MD, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, who was treating Mrs. Bell-Percival for back and neck pain. . “Dr. Sharma did x-rays and found the nodule. I am very grateful to him for finding the nodule and then referring me to Dr. Hussain. I like the way the doctors at UT Southwestern work together,” Ms. Bell-Percival said.
Dr Hussain immediately did a fine needle aspiration biopsy and was able to reassure Ms Bell-Percival that the nodule was not cancerous. Since she had no symptoms, no treatment was needed at that time.
But the nodule continued to grow, and six months later Ms Bell-Percival was having some difficulty swallowing. In March, she was ready to do something, and that’s when Dr. Hussain told her about RFA.
On the day of the procedure, Ms Bell-Percival said everything went well.
“They prepped me and used local anesthetic to numb the area but Dr Hussain wanted me to be awake during the procedure and asked me to talk occasionally so she could be sure my cords vocals were not damaged. She inserted the heated needle and moved it around a bit. I could feel a little vibration, but they had prepared me for what was to come, so I knew exactly what to expect.
“There was no pain associated with it, just a bit of discomfort very briefly. The whole thing was under 30 minutes. Easy and airy,” Ms. Bell-Percival recalled.
“I am grateful to Mrs. Bell-Percival for entrusting her care to me,” said Dr. Hussain.
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes and includes 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Full-time faculty of more than 2,900 are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and committed to rapidly translating scientific research into new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 inpatients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits annually.