Principle and technique for radiofrequency ablation of benign thyroid nodules

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Published: 8 May 2019
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Prof Kwang Hwi Lee - Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

Prof Kwang Hwi Lee speaks to ecancer at the 2019 International Gastrointestinal, Liver and Uro-Oncology Conference (IGILUC) in Cairo about the use of radiofrequency ablation for the non-invasive treatment of benign thyroid nodules.

Prof Lee describes the principle of this method, which uses electricity to cause tissue damage by exerting agitation and a high temperature to the tumour.

He also discusses the accuracy of this method, in which the success rate for treating the thyroid in this way is more than 95 percent and has achieved a volume reduction rate of more than 90 percent - compared to other conventional methods.

Prof Lee states that this technique is commonly used in European countries and Korea. However, Prof Lee hopes that the use of radiofrequency ablation in this disease setting will be used further afield, such as the Middle East and Africa.


Radiofrequency ablation is a simple method. This is a kind of non-surgical treatment or minimum invasive treatment. We can use electricity – electric power can make agitation of the water molecules in the human body. So the water molecule agitation can make increasing of the temperature; the high temperature can make tissue damage. So we can selectively treat the tumour or cancer and some diseases of the human body.

How do you ensure accuracy with this technique?

The radiofrequency ablation is widely applied for many organs in the human body. My major concern is the thyroid. For the thyroid radiofrequency ablation the success rate is more than 95% after treatment to improve the patient’s symptoms. The main volume reduction rate is more than 90% compared with the original mass before treatment. So this efficacy is comparable with surgery as conventional therapy; surgery means lobectomy or total thyroidectomy. So the efficacy is comparable, it’s amazing.

Are there any side effects?

Yes, nowadays the main indication of thyroid radiofrequency ablation is for benign non-toxic thyroid nodules. So the main challenging things are the thyroid RFA for primary thyroid cancer. Nowadays the standard treatment is surgery for primary thyroid cancer but in the future we can control the primary thyroid cancer using the radiofrequency ablation with no need of surgery. So the main challenge is to treat malignant primary thyroid cancer using radiofrequency ablation.

Where is this technique currently commonly practiced worldwide?

In the current situation the radiofrequency ablation for thyroid nodules is commonly applied in European countries and Korea but in the Middle East area and also Africa the radiofrequency ablation for thyroid nodules is seldom performed in many medical centres. But I hope that radiofrequency ablation for thyroid nodules will be supplied widely in this area, the Middle East area and Africa. So radiofrequency ablation has a very good efficacy and very low rate of complication rate so the patient who suffered from a big mass and complaining of breathing difficulty, swallowing difficulty or cosmetic symptoms. So we can treat the patient using the simple method, radiofrequency ablation. So I expect that thyroid RFA will be widely applied in this area.