The Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Frankfurt University Hospital recently became the first European hospital to use microwaves to ablate thyroid nodules.
The success of the new treatment comes as great news for the nearly 20 percent of Germans who have one or more thyroid nodules. In those over 65 years of age, nearly every second person is affected by a thyroid disorder.
The enlargement of the thyroid node can be very unpleasant for those affected, with symptoms including a feeling like a lump in the throat, an unpleasant feeling of pressure, hoarseness and/or chronic coughing.
Using microwave ablation rather than surgery has many advantages for the patient. First, the diseased tissue is removed and burned (destroyed) by microwave field irradiation. The process is faster, more efficient and less painful than alternative methods and therefore was implemented in this initial treatment at Frankfurt University Hospital in the Department of Nuclear Medicine, headed by Prof. Frank Grunwald.
How does microwave ablation work?
With microwave ablation, no surgery is needed. Under local anesthesia, a probe is passed through the skin. Its purpose is to direct the focused microwave field directly into the thyroid nodules. The diseased cells are heated by the microwave field and the treated thyroid tissue is then metabolized by the body. The thyroid nodule becomes smaller very quickly. Using real-time images from an ultrasonic device, the engagement is monitored and controlled at all times. The duration of treatment depends on size and number of thyroid nodules and takes between 10 to 15 minutes. A hospital stay of a few days is sufficient. If the investigation shows immediately after application that a better result is possible, additional treatments can take place directly after another microwave ablation. Since the procedure is performed with a thin needle, the cosmetic result is excellent.
Advantages of microwave ablation
Thyroid nodules are treated to date with radiotherapy. While the patient can be treated with radioactive iodine, usually administered in the form of a capsule, this therapy alone is not always sufficient. In such cases, thyroid nodules are usually removed surgically. In contrast, microwave ablation has a great advantage in eliminating the risks of surgery and related anesthesia. This is especially important for those with pre-existing conditions; for example, cardiovascular disease presents an increased risk during surgery.
As an alternative to surgery, some hospitals have already used radiofrequency ablation, which uses high frequency electric current to remove diseased tissue. Compared to this method, microwave ablation has clear advantages. It is faster, more efficient and less painful. "The microwave ablation also causes significantly fewer side effects because no anesthesia is required. This makes it a very promising alternative to the established procedures," says Dr. Hudayi Korkusuz, radiologist of the Department of Nuclear Medicine, who performed the first microwave treatment.