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Radiofrequency ablation of benign non-functioning thyroid nodules: 4-year follow-up results for 111 patients



To evaluate the clinical outcomes and safety of radiofrequency (RF) ablation for benign non-functioning thyroid nodules over a 4-year follow-up.


We evaluated 126 benign non-functioning thyroid nodules of 111 patients treated with RF ablation and followed-up more than 3 years. RF ablation was performed using the Cool-Tip RF system and an internally cooled electrode. Nodule volume and cosmetic and symptom scores were evaluated before treatment and during follow-up. Complications and factors related to efficacy were evaluated.


The mean follow-up duration was 49.4 ± 13.6 months. Thyroid nodule volume decreased significantly, from 9.8 ± 8.5 ml before ablation to 0.9 ± 3.3 ml (P < 0.001) at final evaluation: a mean volume reduction of 93.4 ± 11.7 %. The mean cosmetic (P < 0.001) and symptom scores (P < 0.001) improved significantly. Factors related to efficacy were initial solidity and volume. The overall recurrence rate was 5.6 % (7/126). The overall complication rate was 3.6 % (4/111).


RF ablation was effective in shrinking benign thyroid nodules and in controlling nodule-related problems over a 4-year follow-up. There were no life-threatening complications or sequelae. Therefore, RF ablation can be used as a non-surgical treatment for patients with benign non-functioning thyroid nodules.

Key Points

• Radiofrequency (RF) ablation provides a non-surgical option for benign non-functioning thyroid nodules

• RF ablation reduced non-functioning thyroid nodular volume by 93.5 % after 49 months

• Initial solidity and volume influenced the efficacy of RF ablation

• Larger thyroid nodules required more treatment sessions to achieve appropriate volume reduction

• Complete treatment of the periphery of the nodule is important in preventing marginal regrowth

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Fig. 1





Ethanol ablation


Laser ablation




Fine-needle aspiration biopsy


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We declare that we have no proprietary, commercial or financial interests that could be construed to have inappropriately influenced this study. Of the 111 patients, 91 participated in previously published study by Jeong et al. [14], 7 in the study by Baek et al. [17], and 13 in the study by Sung et al. [4].

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Correspondence to Jung Hwan Baek.

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Lim, H.K., Lee, J.H., Ha, E.J. et al. Radiofrequency ablation of benign non-functioning thyroid nodules: 4-year follow-up results for 111 patients. Eur Radiol 23, 1044–1049 (2013).

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  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Ultrasound
  • Laser ablation
  • Ethanol ablation