Patients report exceptional results after first year of procedure availability in US

Patients at the Thyroid Center of South Texas (TCST) are experiencing tremendous results after undergoing a new, minimally-invasive procedure recently introduced to the U.S. last year to treat symptomatic, non-cancerous thyroid nodules.

The procedure, known as radio-frequency ablation (RFA), allows patients to experience shorter recovery times, less pain, fewer complications, and no scarring.

Dr. Kathleen Hands is the director of TCST and was the first female endocrinologist in North America to perform the RFA procedure.

Using the V-1000 radio-frequency ablation system, the procedure consists of a small needle electrode being inserted into the patient’s thyroid nodule using ultrasound guidance, where heat is then generated at the needle tip to eradicate the target tissue. Depending on the size of the nodule, the procedure typically lasts approximately 30-45 minutes with patients returning home the same day.

According to Hands, most patients notice a significant reduction in nodule size, usually by half, within one month, and can continue to see up to 90 percent reduction over the following year, although results may vary by patient.

“This procedure coming to the U.S. has opened up a whole new world of treatment for those dealing with benign thyroid nodules,” said Hands. “To present an option to my patients that allows them to avoid anesthesia, lifetime hormone therapy, scarring, and other issues associated with typical thyroid treatments is life changing for them. It’s an entirely new outcome than what we’ve traditionally seen as medical professionals.” According to Endocrine Web, thyroid nodules are three times more common in women than in men, with 30 percent of women developing a nodule by age 30 and nearly half of all women developing a thyroid nodule by the time they are 50 years old. For women trying to conceive, the thyroid gland is important for hormone output and fetal development, making surgical removal of the thyroid a less-than-desirable option. Deonna Hardaway, a 37-year-old mother of two from Kermit, Texas, discovered a benign, 1-centimeter nodule in her throat in 2013, but during pregnancy a few years later, her nodules multiplied and grew, leaving her with a 9-centimeter and 2.5-centimeter nodule around her thyroid.“Anytime I laid on my side or lifted my arms, it felt like I was being choked,” said Hardaway. “Ultrasounds showed my trachea was pushed all the way back to my spine and I was having trouble swallowing.”

In May, Hardaway underwent her first RFA procedure to reduce the 9-centimeter nodule.After a month, Hardaway says her nodule shrunk by 60 percent and her symptoms were alleviated by about 70 percent.

Hardaway will require more than one RFA procedure on her larger nodule, as only 3-4 centimeters can be ablated in one sitting, but Hardaway still prefers this treatment over surgery.

“The procedure was very easy and quick, and after a month, I was already swallowing better,” said Hardaway. “Dr. Hands and her staff were very caring and the outcome was a total success.”

A widely available option in other countries, radio-frequency ablation was finally made available in the U.S. last year. Developed over 15 years ago, this non-surgical alternative shrinks thyroid nodules without compromising thyroid function and helps patients avoid long recovery times and possible complications from thyroid surgery. Approximately 50 percent of patients who underwent RFA stopped anti-hyperthyroid medication completely and remaining patients continue to require a reduced dose of medication, according to Hands.Patients with benign nodules that are causing pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or any swelling are great candidates for the RFA procedure.

If you or someone you know is dealing with thyroid nodule issues, consult your doctor to see if radio-frequency ablation is right for you. For more information on Dr. Hands and the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of South Texas, visit www.thyroid-center.com.

About Thyroid Center of South Texas The Thyroid Center of South Texas is the only thyroid-dedicated endocrinology specialty in South Texas, specializing in thyroid disorders, nodules, cancer of the thyroid, pregnancy related thyroid disorders, and autoimmune thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves disease. Dr. Kathleen Hands carries the distinction of ECNU, Endocrine Certified in Neck Ultrasound, an American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine recognized expert in thyroid ultrasound. Dr. Hands is a thyroid cancer specialist, thyroid ultrasonographer, and the director of the Thyroid & Endocrine Center of South Texas.