European Radiology

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 3128–3137 | Cite as

Complications encountered in ultrasonography-guided radiofrequency ablation of benign thyroid nodules and recurrent thyroid cancers

  • Cherry Kim
  • Jeong Hyun Lee
  • Young Jun Choi
  • Won Bae Kim
  • Tae Yon Sung
  • Jung Hwan BaekEmail author
Head and Neck



To evaluate the complication rates and describe the possible complications of ultrasonography-guided radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of benign thyroid nodules (BTN) and recurrent thyroid cancers (RTC), and to compare the complication rates between BTN and RTC.


This retrospective study reviewed 875 patients who underwent RFA for BTN (746 patients; 83.5%) or RTC (129 patients; 14.7%). Medical records were reviewed for all types of complications occurring during and after the RFA procedure. The baseline characteristics and the complication rates of BTN and RTC were compared.


The overall complication rate was 3.5% (31/875), and the major complication rate was 1.6% (14/875). The major complication rate of RTC was significantly higher than that of BTN (5.4% vs. 0.9%, P = 0.002), while there were no significant differences in the minor complications rate. New complications, such as Horner syndrome, spinal accessory nerve injury, and complications due to lidocaine toxicity, were also revealed.


Various complications of RFA may occur in both BTN and RTC, although the complication rate is low. To understand the broad spectrum of complications and minimise the complications and sequela, the suggested technical tips and cervical anatomy are essential.

Key Points

The overall complication rate was 3.5% (31/875).

The major complication rate was 1.6% (14/875).

The major complication rate of RTC was significantly higher than BTN.

There were only four patients showing persistent symptoms (0.5%).

Unreported new complications were also demonstrated.


Radiofrequency ablation Complications Ultrasound Benign thyroid nodule Recurrent thyroid cancer 





Radiofrequency ablation


Spinal accessory nerve


Recurrent laryngeal nerve




Common carotid artery


Vagus nerve


Middle cervical sympathetic ganglion


Sternocleidomastoid muscle



The scientific guarantor of this publication is Jung Hwan Baek. The authors of this manuscript declare no relationships with any companies, whose products or services may be related to the subject matter of the article. The authors state that this work has not received any funding. No complex statistical methods were necessary for this paper. Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. Written informed consent was waived by the Institutional Review Board. Methodology: retrospective, observational, performed at one institution.


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cherry Kim
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jeong Hyun Lee
    • 1
  • Young Jun Choi
    • 1
  • Won Bae Kim
    • 3
  • Tae Yon Sung
    • 4
  • Jung Hwan Baek
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Radiology and the Research Institute of Radiology, University of Ulsan College of MedicineAsan Medical CenterSeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of Radiology, Ansan HospitalKorea University College of MedicineAnsan-siSouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of Endocrinology, University of Ulsan College of MedicineAsan Medical CenterSeoulSouth Korea
  4. 4.Department of Surgery, University of Ulsan College of MedicineAsan Medical CenterSeoulSouth Korea

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