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Endocrinologists in Utah are using minimally invasive procedures to treat thyroid nodules



Salt Lake City, Utah – In Utah, a novel minimally invasive thyroid nodule treatment technique is gaining popularity. It provides patients with a less invasive option than major surgery for this prevalent thyroid condition.

Thanks to a novel in-office technique, patients with thyroid nodules can now avoid invasive surgery. Recently approved by the FDA, endocrinologists in Utah are using this new technology, with impressive success stories already emerging.

A Weber State University student named Rachel Kjelgaard sought medical assistance after experiencing exhaustion and poor energy.

“I was tired all the time, didn’t have energy even after 8-9 hours of sleep a day,” she said.

Rachel assumed it was a straightforward issue, such as low iron. Her thyroid was severely affected by another condition, as indicated by her blood tests.

Kjelgaard was identified with a toxic thyroid nodule by Utah Endocrinology Associates’ Dr. Alireza Falahati during a consultation. This ailment affects the little butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that regulates metabolism. “Your thyroid is a small but crucial gland,” explained Dr. Falahati. “When it’s not working, it can impact our entire body.”

Thyroid nodules have historically had few treatment options, most of which involved surgery if the lesion was large enough. But because of the potential for scarring, the length of recuperation, and the need for lifelong hormone replacement therapy following surgery, many patients—like Kjelgaard—are wary about having surgery.
Here’s a less intrusive option: radiofrequency and microwave ablation. As one of the pioneers of this technique in Utah, Dr. Falahati has witnessed amazing outcomes.

“We are talking about a 70-90% reduction in the size of the nodule,” he explained. “Symptoms like difficulty swallowing and hoarseness disappear, and the patient is free.”

After the 45 minutes or so that the in-office surgery takes under local anesthesia, patients can go back to their homes. The treatment contains a lot of safety and efficacy evidence from Asia and Europe, where it has been used for decades while being relatively new in the United States.

Even while complete nodule reduction could not occur for up to six months after the treatment, many patients feel relief right away. Almost immediately, Kjelgaard, who is now feeling more like herself, said, “I had more energy, wasn’t as tired, and the anxiety and panic attacks I was experiencing disappeared.”

The surgery can cost up to $5,000, but a major Utah insurer has already paid for it, and in the upcoming months, it should become generally covered.

Patients like Kjelgaard are experiencing relief and hope thanks to this novel method, which represents a breakthrough in the treatment of thyroid nodules.

Although now utilized for nodules, radio, and microwave ablation has demonstrated potential in the treatment of autoimmune hyperthyroidism Graves’ illness. Sadly, people with Hashimoto’s disease who have hypothyroid autoimmune disease are not eligible for ablation therapy.

Falahati cites evidence from Asia regarding Graves’ illness, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid as a whole. They examined patients who underwent ablative procedures to treat the thyroid as a whole, and 70–80% of them experienced remission. So far, the effects have lasted two to three years.

Falahati notes that there is “potential down the road” for people with autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease, but as of now, the medication has not shown benefit in cases with immune hypothyroidism.

Thyroid nodules affect 30–50% of people in their lifetime; not all of them require treatment, according to research. The novel ablation procedures will reduce healthcare expenditures for those who require treatment and provide quick recovery times so that individuals can resume their normal lives.

According to Dr. Falahati, ablation treatment may be utilized in certain cases of malignant thyroid nodules.

“If we know the cancer is limited to one spot inside the thyroid, it has been biopsied and confirmed cancer, and by ultrasound, we don’t see it anywhere else in the thyroid or lymph nodes, we can use the same procedure – ablative therapy and go inside that small cancer lesion, burn it, and make it disappear,” he said.

There are limitations to the ablation procedures: individuals with many nodules could only have one nodule treated at a time, which would make receiving multiple treatments prohibitively expensive.

At the time of publishing, Select Health, one insurance company, was paying for the ablation, and three physician groups in Utah were employing the procedures. In the next months, coverage should become the norm in the state, according to Dr. Falahati.

According to Dr. Falahati, things are looking well for thyroid care in the future.

“We need to change our way of thinking about the general population of patients as well as healthcare providers,” Dr. Falahati said.

Falahati treats the patient as a complete, working together with physicians, whether they have traditional or functional training in medicine.




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