Cleveland Clinic Endocrinology and Metabolism Institute

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Radiofrequency Ablation for Pain Management

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses heat to destroy tissue. For pain management, radio waves are sent through a precisely placed needle to heat an area of the nerve. This prevents pain signals from being sent back to your brain. RFA is considered for long-term pain conditions, especially of the neck, lower back or arthritic joints that haven’t been successfully treated with other methods.

What are the advantages of radiofrequency ablation?

  • Pain relief.
  • No surgery.
  • Little to no recovery time.
  • Decreased need for pain medications.
  • Improved function.
  • Return to regular activities after a day or two of rest.

Cleveland Clinic is the first hospital in Ohio to announce its use of radiofrequency ablation technology to treat benign thyroid nodules that can cause troublesome symptoms, such as neck pain or pressure, difficulty swallowing or breathing. The minimally invasive procedure was used to successfully treat the first patient at Cleveland Clinic Marymount Hospital in April.

Eren Berber, M.D., endocrine surgeon with Cleveland Clinic’s Endocrinology and Metabolism Institute, and vice chair of the Department of Endocrine Surgery, led the team that successfully treated the patient.

Eren Berber, M.D.

“Most thyroid nodules, which are abnormal growths of thyroid tissue, are removed surgically. In selected patients, radiofrequency ablation technology provides an alternative option to remove large thyroid nodules that are benign but can cause symptoms,” said Dr. Berber.

The procedure involves putting a special needle into the thyroid nodule under ultrasound guidance and running energy to create heat that can treat and shrink the nodule. The procedure can be performed with local anesthesia in a surgical setting. After the procedure, the endocrine team monitors the nodule every three to six months with ultrasound.

At this time, this minimally invasive procedure is offered to selected patients with benign thyroid nodules – not with thyroid cancer.

According to the Endocrine Society, thyroid nodules are very common. Most thyroid nodules are benign, but they can progressively grow and lead to cosmetic concerns, or cause symptoms, including difficulty swallowing or breathing, neck pressure and pain.

The thyroid nodule radiofrequency ablation procedure requires experience with thyroid ultrasound, thyroid biopsies, and ablation technology. Cleveland Clinic’s endocrine surgeons do their own ultrasounds, perform biopsies and have a high-volume of ablation surgeries for other organs, such as the liver and the adrenal glands. Cleveland Clinic was the first hospital in the world to use a latest ablation technology to destroy large liver tumors.

For more information about thyroid nodules, including available treatments, please visit Cleveland Clinic’s Thyroid Center.